The anatomical relationship of the common peroneal nerve to the proximal fibula and its clinical significance when performing fibular-based posterolateral reconstructions

Erik Hohmann, Reinette Van Zyl, Vaida Glatt, Kevin Tetsworth, Natalie Keough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The common peroneal nerve (CPN) can be injured during fibular-based posterolateral reconstructions due to its close relationship to the neck of the fibula. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to observe the course of the CPN and its branches around the fibular head and neck and quantify the position in relation to relevant bony landmarks and observe the relation between tunnel drilling for posterolateral corner reconstruction and both the tunnel entry and exit at the proximal fibula and the CPN and its branches was observed. Methods: In 101 (mean age = 70.6 ± 16 years) embalmed cadaver knees, the relationship between bony landmarks (tibial tuberosity, styloid process of fibula (APR)) and the CPN and its branches were established and 8 (M1–M8) distances from these landmarks measured; mean, SD and 95% CI were recorded. In 21 of these knees, a fibula tunnel was drilled as in PLC reconstruction and the association of the CPN and its branches to the tunnel entry and exit were judged by two independent observers. Fisher’s exact test of independence was used to determine significant differences between genders. Tunnel intersection was analysed in a binary yes/no fashion and was described in frequencies and percentages. Results: The mean distance from the APR to where the CPN reaches the fibula neck (M1) was 31.4 ± 8.9 mm (CI:29.8–33.0); from the apex of the styloid process (APR) to where the CPN passes posterior to the broadest point of the fibular head (M3) was 21.7 ± 12.6 mm (CI:19.4–24.0); from the apex of the APR to the most proximal point of the CPN/CPN first branch in the midline of the fibular head (M2) was 37.0 ± 6.7 mm (CI: 35.4–37.7). Out of the 21 randomly selected knees for drilling, the first branch of the CPN was damaged at the tunnel entry point in 7 (33%), and in 5 knees (24%), the CPN was damaged at the tunnel exit. In one knee, at both the tunnel entry and exit, the first branch of the CPN and the CPN were intersected, respectively. Conclusion: The results of this study strongly suggest that the CPN is at risk when drilling the fibula tunnel performing fibula-based posterolateral corner reconstructions. The total injury rate was 57% with a 33% incidence of injury to the first branch of the nerve at the tunnel entry and 24% to the CPN at the tunnel exit. Clinical Relevance: Due to the high incidence of injury, percutaneous placement of guide pins and tunnel drilling is not recommended. The nerve should be visualized and protected by either a traditional open approach or minimally invasive techniques. With a minimally invasive approach, the nerve should be identified at the fibula neck and then followed ante- and retrograde.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-445
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery
Volume141
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Common peroneal nerve
  • Iatrogenic nerve injuries
  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Posterolateral corner reconstructions
  • Proximal fibula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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