The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of plain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance (MR) arthrography for detecting collateral ligamentous injury of the ankle joint.
Fifty patients (October 2001 to November 2003) suffering from ankle disability who underwent plain MRI and MR arthrographic studies were enrolled in this study. The diagnostic criteria for ligament disruption on plain MRI included nonvisualization, disruption, waviness of the ligament, or coexistent avulsion fracture. The MR arthrographic findings of ligament disruption were based on leakage of gadolinium contrast medium anterior to the anterior talofibular (ATaF) ligament following ATaF ligament disruption, and the contrast medium filling into the common peroneal tendon sheath after calcaneofibular (CF) ligament disruption. The 2 modalities were interpreted respectively and blindly.
Seventeen patients received surgical intervention. There were 14 patients who had a torn ATaF ligament and 6 patients who suffered from CF ligament disruption proved by surgery. Limited detection of preoperative plain MRI survey, which showed 12 patients had torn ATaF and 2 patients had torn CF ligament, was noted. However, most patients with ligamentous injury were correctly diagnosed by MR arthrography preoperatively (only 1 case of CF injury was missed). The plain MRI alone had a higher incidence of false negative and false positive detection. MR arthrography was also valuable for evaluating the coexisting intra-articular pathologies of the ankle joint.
For evaluating ankle disability, using plain MRI alone is not adequate for correctly detecting lateral collateral ligamentous injury of the ankle joint. MR arthrography improves the sensitivity and the accuracy for ATaF and CF ligament injuries. It also helps in assessing coexisting pathologic lesions of ankle joints, especially impingement syndromes and osteochondral lesions, and provides more information for therapeutic decision making.