Tendon transfer to unossified bone in a porcine model: potential implications for early tibialis anterior tendon transfers in children with clubfeet

Matthew A. Halanski, Sam Abrams, Rachel Lenhart, Ellen Leiferman, Teresa Kaiser, Emily Pierce, Rachel Rebekah Franklin, Dayton Opel, Kenneth J. Noonan, Thomas D. Crenshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Tibialis anterior tendon transfers (TATT) are commonly performed in young children following Ponseti casting for clubfeet. The classic TATT involves advancing the tendon through a hole drilled in the ossified cuneiform. The aim of this study was to determine if tendons transferred through unossified bones have untoward effects on subsequent bone development. Method: Twenty-five piglets underwent one of five surgical procedures. An 18-gauge needle was then used to place a tunnel through the bony or cartilaginous portion of the calcaneus (through direct visualization) and isolated slips of the flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) were placed through the tunnels, as determined by surgical procedure. Radiographic and/or histologic evaluations of the calcaneal apophyses were then performed. A discrete (1–4) and dichotomous “Normal” or “Abnormal” scoring system was developed and its reliability assessed to grade the appearance of the calcanei. Calcaneal appearances following the surgical procedures were then compared with controls. The average load to failure of a subset of transferred tendons was then compared using an MTS machine. Results: The proposed apophyseal grading system (1–4) demonstrated an intraclass correlational coefficient (ICC) for consistency of 0.92 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.88 < ICC < 0.95] and ICC for agreement of 0.91 (95% CI 0.86 < ICC < 0.95), indicating strong agreement and consistency. Similarly, Fleiss’ kappa for the 1–4 scoring system was found to be 0.67, indicating substantial agreement between reviewers. When the 1–4 system was translated into the dichotomous scheme “Normal” and “Abnormal”, the kappa value increased to 0.94, indicating strong agreement. Forty-six apophyses (13 control and 33 operative) were assessed using this scoring scheme. Apophyseal transfers were significantly more abnormal than controls (p < 0.0001), while no difference in abnormalities was found following tunnel placement alone (p = 1). Mechanical testing of the tendons transferred to bone or through the cartilaginous apophysis demonstrated no significant differences (p = 0.2). Conclusion: Tendon transfers through unossified bones altered subsequent bone development. Significance: While the long-term consequence of these structural changes is unknown, these findings suggest that tendon transfers through unossified bones should be avoided and alternative methods of tendon fixation explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-714
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Children's Orthopaedics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Apophysis
  • Clubfoot
  • Porcine model
  • Tendon transfer
  • Tibialis anterior tendon transfer
  • Unossified

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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