When is surgery indicated in the management of muscular dystrophy?

Updated: Aug 17, 2020
  • Author: Twee T Do, MD; Chief Editor: Jeffrey D Thomson, MD  more...
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Significant upper-extremity contractures rarely occur in patients with MD. Occasionally, tightness of the long flexors may become problematic with hand function in operating an automatic wheelchair, but historically this has been treated with a nighttime orthosis.

In patients with MD, lower-extremity contractures start with equinus deformities. Initially, the contractures are supple and can occur in children as young as 6 years. Patients may be treated with various types of procedures to lengthen the tendo Achillis, including Vulpius tendon lengthening (which avoids overlengthening the already weakened muscle), percutaneous Hoke-Miller triple cut (which limits the incision and, thus, the postoperative immobilization), Warren-White lengthening, or standard z-lengthening.

Occasionally, when an associated varus deformity is present as a result of overpull of the unaffected tibialis posterior muscle, a posterior tibial tendon transfer through the interosseous membrane or a split-posterior tibial tendon transfer may also be indicated. In cases of severe contractures at the foot and ankle, posterior tibial lengthening or tenotomy may be necessary to achieve a plantigrade position.

Hip and knee contractures develop later in MD. Once patients become wheelchair-bound, hip and knee flexion contractures are more rapidly progressive. The abduction contracture was initially thought to be useful in obtaining stability with a wider base gait, but it also makes it difficult for patients to fit in standard wheelchairs or to be comfortable in bed. Various tenotomies are available, including the Yount (resection of the iliotibial band [ITB] distally at the knee), [59] modified Souter-Strathclyde (resection of the ITB proximally), and complete resection of the ITB from the hip to the knee.

Transfer of the iliopsoas has also been tried with limited success; this is no longer a procedure of choice in patients with MDs. Posterior capsulotomy of the knee can allow for maintenance of flexible extremities for bracing, although this is not routinely performed. KAFOs with locked knees may extend the ambulatory status of weakened patients by 1 to 3 years. [57, 16] The locked knees, however, are not well tolerated, as they cause children to feel as if they are going to fall. This is a worse condition than buckling because of weakness at the quadriceps. Postoperatively, all patients are given some type of orthosis.

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