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McDowell Podiatry
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The Bone Bridges of Tarsal Coalition

Tarsal CoalitionSome of the issues that we treat at our Carmichael, CA podiatric practice are quite easy to observe. Bunions, fungal nail infections, and high foot arches are all rather visible. Other conditions are the result of physical trauma—like a sports injury or auto accident—and the patient is well aware of what happened. Tarsal coalition, though, is a prime example of a structural deformity that develops while the fetus is still in the womb, but may not cause issues until later in life.

Tarsal Coalition Overview

Essentially, tarsal coalition is a genetic issue caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for dictating how the tarsal bones (those found in the back of the foot) develop. This condition will most often affect the calcaneus (the heel bone), talus, and/or navicular bone.

The bones are structured so that the navicular sits in front of the talus (ankle bone), which is on top of the calcaneus. These tarsals are close to each other, so the bones become connected when cartilage or bone tissue develops between them.

This particular condition does not necessarily cause problems initially. When a child is young, his or her bones and other tissue are still rather soft and pliable, so there might not be any indication of future issues. That said, should your child ever need a foot X-ray for diagnosing or monitoring a different medical concern, the coalition would likely be evident on the scan.

The problem will more often start coming to light as a child grows older. A natural process of physical development is that bones and tissues harden and become stronger over time. As this happens, your child might experience pain when his or her bones do not move in the fashion in which they are intended. There is also a decent chance that your child may have the condition but still not experience any foot pain, even after the bones have hardened. This tends to be the case for approximately half of all children who are born with this coalition.

Tarsal Coalition Symptoms

Symptoms and signs include:

  • Stiffness and difficult with foot mobility, especially with lateral movements.
  • Ankle pain.
  • Frequent ankle sprains. It is important to note that sprains are common for anyone, but these are usually caused by impaired balance.
  • Rigid, flat feet, even when your child rises on tiptoe (which is otherwise an indication of flexible flatfoot).
  • A noticeable limp, ankle pain following physical activity, or even withdrawal from favorite sports or physical activities.

Should any of these symptoms be observed or brought to your attention, McDowell Podiatry Group is ready to help. We will provide an accurate diagnosis by examining your son or daughter’s medical history, checking both feet, and using imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans) to determine if tarsal coalition is present.

Effective Treatment Options

There is a good chance that the condition will not cause any noticeable symptoms. When it does, though, our foot doctors will begin treatment with the use of conservative methods to alleviate pain and promote better mobility. Nonsurgical treatment may include a boot or cast, orthotics, and possibly pain medication. Adequate rest is also quite important. Boots, casts, and orthotics keep the foot immobile, promote stability, and relieve pressure from the lower limbs.

Our preference is to address tarsal coalition conditions with conservative measures, but some cases require surgical procedures. Should it come to this, you can take comfort in the fact that our office is staffed with some of Sacramento’s finest foot surgeons. We will carefully explain your options and provide our expert recommendation so you are able to make an informed decision that is best for your child.

Sacramento, CA Foot Care

We are here to provide treatment for conditions like tarsal coalition for you and your whole family, but we offer effective care for many other foot or ankle conditions as well. McDowell Podiatry Group is committed to providing the first-class foot and ankle care, so contact our Carmichael, CA office today. Call us at (512) 328-8900 for more information or use our online form to schedule your appointment.

Dr. Brian McDowell
Dr. Brian McDowell, board-certified podiatrist, provides cutting-edge foot and ankle care in Carmichael, CA.