MR imaging of the tarsal tunnel and related spaces: Normal and abnormal findings with anatomic correlation

S. J. Erickson, S. F. Quinn, J. B. Kneeland, J. W. Smith, J. E. Johnson, G. F. Carrera, M. J. Shereff, J. S. Hyde, Jesmanowicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


The tarsal tunnel syndrome may be caused by extrinsic or intrinsic pressure on the posterior tibial nerve or its terminal branches. The specific symptoms depend on the extent of nerve involvement, and compression distal or proximal to the tarsal tunnel may result in variants of the syndrome. To define better the capability of MR imaging for evaluating this entity, we performed MR imaging on three normal subjects and correlated the images with cryomicrotome sections. Six patients with symptoms suggestive of tarsal tunnel syndrome also were studied with MR. In all normal subjects, MR images showed the flexor retinaculum and the structures passing deep to the retinaculum; the tibialis posterior tendon, flexor digitorum longus tendon, flexor hallucis longus tendon, and the posterior tibial neurovascular bundle. The medial calcaneal sensory branch(es) and the medial and lateral plantar nerves also were delineated. Mechanical causes of compression were shown in all six symptomatic patients. The pathologic entities included two neurilemomas, tenosynovitis involving all three tendons, a ganglion cyst arising from the flexor hallucis longus tendon sheath, posttraumatic fibrosis, and posttraumatic fibrosis with associated posttraumatic neuroma. The MR findings were confirmed surgically in five cases. MR imaging can accurately depict the contents of the tarsal tunnel and the courses of the terminal branches of the posterior tibial nerve. In our small series, MR imaging accurately showed the lesions responsible for tarsal tunnel syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-328
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990
Externally publishedYes


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