Combined common peroneal and tibial nerve injury after knee dislocation: One injury or two? An MRI-clinical correlation

Chandan G. Reddy, Kimberly K. Amrami, Benjamin M. Howe, Robert J. Spinner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Object Knee dislocations are often accompanied by stretch injuries to the common peroneal nerve (CPN). A small subset of these injuries also affect the tibial nerve. The mechanism of this combined pattern could be a single longitudinal stretch injury of the CPN extending to the sciatic bifurcation (and tibial division) or separate injuries of both the CPN and tibial nerve, either at the level of the tibiofemoral joint or distally at the soleal sling and fibular neck. The authors reviewed cases involving patients with knee dislocations with CPN and tibial nerve injuries to determine the localization of the combined injury and correlation between degree of MRI appearance and clinical severity of nerve injury. Methods Three groups of cases were reviewed. Group 1 consisted of knee dislocations with clinical evidence of nerve injury (n = 28, including 19 cases of complete CPN injury); Group 2 consisted of knee dislocations without clinical evidence of nerve injury (n = 19); and Group 3 consisted of cases of minor knee trauma but without knee dislocation (n = 14). All patients had an MRI study of the knee performed within 3 months of injury. MRI appearance of tibial and common peroneal nerve injury was scored by 2 independent radiologists in 3 zones (Zone I, sciatic bifurcation; Zone II, knee joint; and Zone III, soleal sling and fibular neck) on a severity scale of 1-4. Injury signal was scored as diffuse or focal for each nerve in each of the 3 zones. A clinical score was also calculated based on Medical Research Council scores for strength in the tibial and peroneal nerve distributions, combined with electrophysiological data, when available, and correlated with the MRI injury score. Results Nearly all of the nerve segments visualized in Groups 1 and 2 demonstrated some degree of injury on MRI (95%), compared with 12% of nerve segments in Group 3. MRI nerve injury scores were significantly more severe in Group 1 relative to Group 2 (2.06 vs 1.24, p < 0.001) and Group 2 relative to Group 3 (1.24 vs 0.13, p < 0.001). In both groups of patients with knee dislocations (Groups 1 and 2), the MRI nerve injury score was significantly higher for CPN than tibial nerve (2.72 vs 1.40 for Group 1, p < 0.001; 1.39 vs 1.09 for Group 2, p < 0.05). The clinical injury score had a significantly strong correlation with the MRI injury score for the CPN (r = 0.75, p < 0.001), but not for the tibial nerve (r = 0.07, p = 0.83). Conclusions MRI is highly sensitive in detecting subclinical nerve injury. In knee dislocation, clinical tibial nerve injury is always associated with simultaneous CPN injury, but tibial nerve function is never worse than peroneal nerve function. The point of maximum injury can occur in any of 3 zones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE8
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015


  • Foot drop
  • Knee dislocation
  • MRI
  • Nerve
  • Peroneal
  • Tibial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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