Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Last revised by Dr Yahya Baba on 16 Dec 2021

Tarsal tunnel syndrome refers to an entrapment neuropathy (tunnel syndrome) of the (posterior) tibial nerve or of its branches within the tarsal tunnel. This condition is analogous to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The most common symptoms are pain and paresthesia in the toes, sole, or heel and the main finding at physical examination is the Tinel sign (distal paresthesias produced by percussion over the affected portion of the nerve). Tarsal tunnel syndrome is usually unilateral.

Electromyography and nerve conduction studies are useful in confirming the diagnosis.

Because the tarsal tunnel is a tight space, volume-occupying lesions can cause symptoms.

May be able to demonstrate the presence of some of the etiological factors listed above.

MR imaging clearly depicts the bones, soft-tissue contents, and boundaries of the tarsal tunnel as well as the different pathologic conditions responsible for tarsal tunnel syndrome.

MR imaging can also aid in determining whether treatment should be conservative (e.g. tenosynovitis) or surgical (e.g. space-occupying lesions).

Conservative management - orthosis, local injection, anti-inflammatory medications, and tricyclic antidepressants (TCA).

Surgical management - decompressive surgery.

The term was first described by C Keck and S J S Lam in 1962 3

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: caused by synovial sheath ganglion cysts
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  • Case 2: with neurofibromatosis
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  • Case 3
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