The accessory navicular (os navicularum or os tibiale externum) is an extra bone or piece of cartilage located on the inner side of the foot just above the arch. It is incorporated within the posterior tibial tendon, which attaches in this area. An accessory navicular is congenital (present at birth). It is not part of normal bone structure and therefore is not present in most people. People who have an accessory navicular often are unaware of the condition if it causes no problems. However, some people with this extra bone develop a painful condition known as accessory navicular syndrome when the bone and/or posterior tibial tendon are aggravated. Many people with accessory navicular syndrome also have flat feet (fallen arches). Having a flat foot puts more strain on the posterior tibial tendon, which can produce inflammation or irritation of the accessory navicular.
Let us see the reasons why the tendon or the bone would get aggravated. Ankle or foot sprain, irritation of the bone caused by footwear, overusing the foot, quite common in athletes and dancers. People born with this extra bone are also known develop flat feet which also adds to the strain on the posterior tibial tendon and lead to the syndrome.
Most people with an accessory navicular do not have symptoms because the bone is so small that it causes no harm, or only develop symptoms after a trauma such as a break or sprain. When symptoms are present they could be a visible bony prominence, pain and throbbing, inflammation and redness, and flat feet.
To diagnose accessory navicular syndrome, the foot and ankle surgeon will ask about symptoms and examine the foot, looking for skin irritation or swelling. The doctor may press on the bony prominence to assess the area for discomfort. Foot structure, muscle strength, joint motion, and the way the patient walks may also be evaluated. X-rays are usually ordered to confirm the diagnosis. If there is ongoing pain or inflammation, an MRI or other advanced imaging tests may be used to further evaluate the condition.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of the accessory navicular begins with rest, which may include activity modification or temporary immobilization in a boot or a brace. Once the inflammation subsides the foot needs to be supported. The support consists of a specially designed orthotic arch support. Occasionally, the orthotic will dig into the edge of the accessory navicular bone under the arch of the foot. This is very uncomfortable. For this reason the orthotic support needs to be carefully made. The orthotic support will help control (but not cure) the flat foot and will often decrease the inflammation on the navicular.
Depending upon the severity the non operative or conservative treatment should be maintained for at least 4- 6 months before any surgical intervention. There are 2 surgeries that can be performed depending upon the condition and symptoms. First is simple surgical excision. In this generally the accessory navicular along with its prominence is removed. In this procedure, skin incision What is the tendon at the back of your ankle? made dorsally to the prominence of accessory navicular. Bone is removed to the point where the medial foot has no bony prominence over the navicular, between the head of the talus and first cuneiform. Symptoms are relieved in 90% of cases. Second is Kindler procedure. In this the ossicle and navicular prominence is excised as in simple excision but along with the posterior tibial tendon advancement. Posterior tibial tendon is split and advanced along the medial side of foot to provide support to longitudinal arch. After surgery 4 week short leg cast, well moulded into the arch with the foot plantigrade is applied. Partial weight bearing till the 8th week and later full weight bearing is allowed. When the cast is being removed can start building up the ROM to counter atrophy and other physical therapy treatment which include stretching and strengthening exercises.
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