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Navicular Problems

Other Popular Names

Who does it affect?

Not everyone has the same number of bones in his feet. Often both the hands and the feet contain extra small accessory bones, or ossicles, that sometimes cause problems.

The navicular bone of the foot is one of the small bones on the mid-foot. The bone is located at the instep, the arch at the middle of the foot. One of the larger tendons of the foot, called the posterior tibial tendon, attaches to the navicular before continuing under the foot and into the forefoot. This tendon is a tough band of tissue that helps hold up the arch of the foot. If there is an accessory navicular, it is located in the instep where the posterior tibial tendon attaches to the real navicular bone.

The accessory navicular is a congenital anomaly, meaning that you are born with the extra bone. As the skeleton completely matures, the navicular and the accessory navicular never completely grow, or fuse, into one solid bone. The two bones are joined by fibrous tissue or cartilage. Girls seem to be more likely to have an accessory navicular than boys.

Why does it happen?

Just having an accessory navicular bone is not necessarily a bad thing. Not all people with these accessory bones have symptoms. Symptoms arise when the accessory navicular is overly large or when an injury disrupts the fibrous tissue between the navicular and the accessory navicular. A very large accessory navicular can cause a bump on the instep that rubs on your shoe causing pain.

An injury to the fibrous tissue connecting the two bones can cause something similar to a fracture. The injury allows movement to occur between the navicular and the accessory bone and is thought to be the cause of pain. The fibrous tissue is prone to poor healing and may continue to cause pain. Because the posterior tibial tendon attaches to the accessory navicular, it constantly pulls on the bone, creating even more motion between the fragments with each step.

Symptoms

The primary reason an accessory navicular becomes a problem is pain. There is no need to do anything with an accessory navicular that is not causing pain. The pain is usually at the instep area and can be pinpointed over the small bump in the instep. Walking can be painful when the problem is aggravated. As stated earlier, the condition is more common in girls. The problem commonly becomes symptomatic in the teenage years.

Diagnostics

The diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical examination by your consultant. Usually the condition is suggested by the history and the tenderness over the area of the navicular. X-rays will usually be required to allow the consultant see the accessory navicular. Generally no other tests are required.

Non-Surgical Treatment

If the foot becomes painful following a twisting type of injury and an X-ray reveals the presence of an accessory navicular bone, your consultant may recommend a period of immobilization in a cast or splint. This will rest the foot and perhaps allow the disruption between the navicular and accessory navicular to heal. Your consultant may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication. Sometimes an arch support can relieve the stress on the fragment and decrease the symptoms. If the pain subsides and the fragment becomes asymptomatic, further treatment may not be necessary.

Surgery

If all nonsurgical measures fail and the fragment continues to be painful, surgery may be recommended.

The most common procedure used to treat the symptomatic accessory navicular is the Kidner procedure. A small incision is made in the instep of the foot over the accessory navicular. The accessory navicular is then detached from the posterior tibial tendon and removed from the foot. The posterior tibial tendon is reattached to the remaining normal navicular. Following the procedure, the skin incision is closed with stitches, and a bulky bandage and splint are applied to the foot and ankle.

Post-surgery Rehabilitation

You may need to use crutches for several days after surgery. Your stitches will be removed in 10 to 14 days (unless they are the absorbable type, which will not need to be taken out). You should be safe to be released to full activity in about six weeks.

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