The accessory navicular (os navicularum or os tibiale externum) is an extra bone or piece of cartilage located on the inner side of the foot just above the arch. It is incorporated within the posterior tibial tendon, which attaches in this area. An accessory navicular is congenital (present at birth). It is not part of normal bone structure and therefore is not present in most people. People who have an accessory navicular often are unaware of the condition if it causes no problems. However, some people with this extra bone develop a painful condition known as accessory navicular syndrome when the bone and/or posterior tibial tendon are aggravated. Many people with accessory navicular syndrome also have flat feet (fallen arches). Having a flat foot puts more strain on the posterior tibial tendon, which can produce inflammation or irritation of the accessory navicular.
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.
Not everyone who has an accessory navicular will develop these problems. When problems do occur, they may begin in early adolescence. The obvious indication is a painful bump on the inside of the foot, which hurts to touch, and causes problems that gradually become worse, and which are aggravated by activity, walking, etc., leading to all the problems discussed here. Pain may be worse towards the end of the day, and continue into the night. Among adults, symptomatic accessory navicular is more common in women than in men, with onset typical at 40 years of age or greater. Among symptomatic children, the mean age of onset for maels is 6 years, and for females, 4.5 years. In general, symptoms may occur between 2 and 9 years of age.
To diagnose accessory navicular syndrome, the foot and ankle surgeon will ask about symptoms and examine the foot, looking for skin irritation or swelling. The doctor may press on the bony prominence to assess the area for discomfort. Foot structure, muscle strength, joint motion, and the way the patient walks may also be evaluated. X-rays are usually ordered to confirm the diagnosis. If there is ongoing pain or inflammation, an MRI or other advanced imaging tests may be used to further evaluate the condition.
Non Surgical Treatment
The goal of non-surgical treatment for accessory navicular syndrome is to relieve the symptoms. The following may be used. Placing the foot in a cast or removable walking boot allows the affected area to rest and decreases the inflammation. To reduce swelling, a bag of ice covered with a thin towel is applied to the affected area. Do not put ice directly on the skin. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be prescribed. In some cases, oral or injected steroid medications may be used in combination with immobilization to reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy may be prescribed, including exercises and treatments to strengthen the muscles and decrease inflammation. The exercises may also help prevent recurrence of the symptoms. Custom orthotic devices that fit into the shoe provide support for the arch, and may play a role in preventing future symptoms. Even after successful treatment, the symptoms of accessory navicular syndrome sometimes reappear. When this happens, non-surgical approaches are usually repeated.
Depending upon the severity the non operative or conservative treatment should be maintained for at least 4- 6 months before any surgical intervention. There are 2 surgeries that can be performed depending upon the condition and symptoms. First is simple surgical excision. In this generally the accessory navicular along with its prominence is removed. In this procedure, skin incision is made dorsally to the prominence of accessory navicular. Bone is removed to the point where the medial foot has no bony prominence over the navicular, between the head of the talus and first cuneiform. Symptoms are relieved in 90% of cases. Second is Kindler procedure. In this the ossicle and navicular prominence is excised as in simple excision but along with the posterior tibial tendon advancement. Posterior tibial tendon is split and advanced along the medial side of foot to provide support to longitudinal arch. After surgery 4 week short leg cast, well moulded into the arch with the foot plantigrade is applied. Partial weight bearing till the 8th week and later full weight bearing is allowed. When the cast is being removed can start building up the ROM to counter atrophy and other physical therapy treatment which include stretching and strengthening exercises.