Lisfranc Fracture Dislocation

Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Author: Nirmal Tejwani, MD, MPA; Chief Editor: Thomas M DeBerardino, MD 



The Lisfranc joint, which represents the articulation between the midfoot and forefoot, is composed of the five tarsometatarsal (TMT) joints. Jacques Lisfranc de Saint-Martin (1790-1847), a field surgeon in Napoleon's army serving on the Russian front, described a new amputation technique across the five TMT joints—one that did not require any bony osteotomy—as a swift solution to forefoot gangrene secondary to frostbite. This anatomic landmark became known as the Lisfranc joint, a term that is used today in the description of a wide spectrum of traumatic injuries to the TMT area of the foot.

The Lisfranc ligament is a solitary ligament that connects the first ray (first metatarsal-medial cuneiform articulation) to the middle and lateral columns of the foot. It is attached to the lateral margin of the medial cuneiform and the medial and plantar surface of the second metatarsal (MT) base. This is the only ligamentous support between the first ray and the second ray at midfoot level.

Although Lisfranc described the joint that bears his name, he did not actually describe the injury pattern well known by this eponym. As currently understood, a Lisfranc injury encompasses everything from a sprain to a complete disruption of normal anatomy through the TMT joints. This type of injury was later described in equestrian riders who got their foot caught in a stirrup when they fell from a horse.

Lisfranc joint injuries are rare, complex, and often misdiagnosed or inadequately treated. Injuries to the Lisfranc articulations frequently lead not only to arthritis but also to severe pain. Injury to the Lisfranc ligament, even in isolation, will result in functional instability with loss of longitudinal and transverse arch[1] ; early recognition and treatment of injuries to this ligament are important for preserving normal foot biomechanics and function. Lisfranc fracture dislocations and sprains carry a high risk of chronic secondary disability. Best outcomes for these injuries require prompt recognition and then anatomic reduction and stabilization.


The Lisfranc joint is composed of five TMT joints in which the first through third MTs articulate with their corresponding medial, middle, and lateral cuneiforms, whereas the fourth and fifth MTs articulate with the cuboid. Functionally, the Lisfranc joint can be divided longitudinally into three columns, as follows:

  • Medial column, or first ray
  • Middle column, consisting of the second and third TMT joints
  • Lateral column, consisting of the fourth and fifth TMT joints

A transverse line through these joints is not straight but highlights a recess, termed the keystone (much as in a Roman arch), that is formed by the second TMT joint. This joint lies approximately 1 cm proximal to the first TMT joint line and 0.5 cm proximal to the third TMT joint line.

The joints are bound by thick plantar ligaments that form an interlocking pattern between the tarsal and lesser MT bones 2-5. These are reinforced by attachments of the posterior tibialis tendon. The first TMT joint also has strong plantar ligaments across the joint; these are reinforced by the attachment of the peroneus longus and anterior tibialis tendons.

Also present between the lesser MTs is a series of intermetatarsal ligaments, which force the group to function more as a unit. No intermetatarsal ligaments exist between the first and second MTs, which is why they often exhibit divergent behavior. The weaker dorsal ligaments explain the majority of dorsal dislocations.[2]

The Lisfranc ligament originates from the plantar lateral aspect of the medial cuneiform and attaches to the plantar medial aspect of the second MT base. It is the thickest of the ligaments in this region, measuring up to 1 cm wide. This ligament provides the only soft-tissue link between the medial ray and the lesser MT and is responsible for this area's stability.

Motion at the TMT joints is variable. The second and third joints are the stiffest, with minimal motion in the dorsal or plantar plane and none in the medial or lateral plane. The third and first TMT joints exhibit progressively more motion in both planes but still are relatively stiff and mainly function as areas of adjustment to allow the MT heads to share weight equally.

The lateral two TMT joints demonstrate roughly three times more motion in the dorsal or plantar plane than the first TMT joint does. That motion is significant in the function of the foot and must be preserved to maintain normal function, especially if stiffness occurs in the medial and middle columns.

In the column theory, the middle column is more important for rigidity, and the medial and lateral columns are more important for shock absorption during gait. The lateral joints are more important for their mobile contributions to the balancing of forefoot weightbearing. This principle is important in treating these injuries.


In diabetic patients with neuropathy or those with idiopathic insensate feet, subacute diastasis can occur over time without notable pain. The absence of pain allows this gradual process to continue, so that a minor injury can lead to a Lisfranc injury.

In the authors’ opinion, the hallmark of an impending Lisfranc injury is the loss of the recess of the second MT base with the middle cuneiform, also known as the keystone. Radiographs are considered abnormal when weightbearing anteroposterior (AP) views of the foot show the first TMT joint to be at the same level as the second TMT joint, indicating proximal migration of the first ray (see the image below).

Radiograph illustrating diabetic patient with firs Radiograph illustrating diabetic patient with first ray instability of the right foot. The articular surfaces of the second and first metatarsal are level in the transverse plane, indicating proximal migration of the first ray. The left foot shows the advanced stage of an untreated Lisfranc injury with similar first ray instability.


The two major causes of Lisfranc injuries are as follows[3] :

  • Low-energy, sports-related injuries
  • High-energy motor vehicle and industrial accidents

In low-energy settings, TMT injuries are caused by a direct blow to the joint or by axial loading along the MT, either with medially or laterally directed rotational forces. In high-energy injuries, the method of loading is not significantly different, but the energy absorbed by the articulations results in significantly more collateral damage to bony and soft-tissue structures, creating such injuries as MT fractures, cuneiform instabilities, and cuboid fractures.

The damage to the tight ligamentous structures of this joint complex creates an unstable foot for weightbearing. The sense of instability and pain can occur whether or not overt evidence of instability is present. Chronic sprains resulting from relatively minor trauma can be the most debilitating sprains as a consequence of pain with weightbearing.


Lisfranc injuries account for 0.2% of all fractures.[4] The reported incidence of this uncommon injury is approximately 1 per 55,000 persons per year; however, it is important to have a high level of clinical suspicion for this injury, given that as many as 20% of Lisfranc injuries are missed on initial examination.[5]  Lisfranc injury can occur in all ages but is more common in the third decade and is more common in males.[6] Subtle Lisfranc sprain and diastasis have become more commonly diagnosed in athletes.[7, 8]


Stable anatomic alignment is the best predictor of outcome.[9, 10, 11] The presence of fractures and/or articular destruction leads to poorer results, regardless of alignment. The incidence of posttraumatic arthritis reportedly ranges from 0% to 58%.[12] One study reported that as many as 25% of patients develop posttraumatic arthritis even after fixation. This same study showed that there was no difference between acute and delayed (>6 weeks) surgical fixation. Purely ligamentous injuries seemed to have poorer outcomes.[5]

Good results are achieved from open reduction with internal fixation (ORIF) at up to 6 weeks, but poor outcomes are seen after this time, arising from articular destruction, malalignment, and poor soft-tissue envelope.

Schepers et al performed a pedobarographic study that showed reduced contact time and reduced contact area of the forefoot in 26 patients relative to the uninvolved side.[13] Whereas these patients expressed good satisfaction with the procedure (primary ORIF [PORIF]), with Short Form (SF)-36 scores averaging 101, their functional scores were only fair, with a median American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Score (AOFAS) of 72 and a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) score of 7.

Patient Education

As with all surgical procedures, it is important to set appropriate expectations with patients early in the treatment process. Patients should be counseled regarding the risks and expected outcomes for each type of intervention. For those undergoing ORIF, preoperative explanation of the potential need for removal of hardware is important. The risk of development of posttraumatic arthritis and subsequent need for arthrodesis should be highlighted. For patients undergoing primary arthrodesis, discussion of the risk of nonunion and need for revision surgery is warranted.  



History and Physical Examination

Patients with Lisfranc injuries can present with obvious anatomic deformities or with variable amounts of pain with weightbearing. Lisfranc injury should be excluded in any patient with midfoot pain on either the dorsal or the plantar aspect of the foot during weightbearing.

Clinical signs of Lisfranc injury are the following:

  • Swelling out of proportion with a normal radiograph
  • Plantar midfoot ecchymosis (see the image below)
  • Pain along the tarsometatarsal (TMT) joints with palpation, motion, or weightbearing
  • Midfoot instability
Clinical identification of typical plantar ecchymo Clinical identification of typical plantar ecchymosis pattern observed in Lisfranc injuries.

For all suspected injuries, a careful workup is warranted. Even significant injuries can reduce spontaneously, thereby hiding the initial deformity. The exaggerated swelling is the key in the differential diagnosis of subtle injuries.

Special attention should be paid to patients with decreased sensation in the feet (eg, those with diabetes) because they may be at greater risk for progressive neuropathic changes. Likewise, trauma patients who are nonweightbearing because of other injuries should be carefully screened and examined in the presence of midfoot pain or characteristic ecchymosis.


Lisfranc injury is seen more commonly in football players, gymnasts, ballet dancers, and track-and-field athletes; it has also been reported in a professional hockey player.[14] The Lisfranc injury can potentially be a career-ending injury, particularly for elite gymnasts, as noted by Chilvers et al.[15] The mechanism of injury for most athletes is axial loading on a hyperplantarflexed midfoot. For ballet dancers, the pointe shoe design has been shown to stabilize the Lisfranc joint in the en-pointe position.[16]

Lisfranc injuries in athletes have been classified according to the American Medical Association’s Standard Nomenclature of Athletic Injuries. First- and second-degree sprains have been classified as partial ligament tears with swelling, focal pain, no instability, and normal radiographs. Instability and diastasis greater than 2 mm between the first and second metatarsals (MTs), as seen on anteroposterior (AP) radiographs, is consistent with a third-degree sprain.[7, 8]



Approach Considerations

Although there are no specific laboratory studies for Lisfranc injuries, the clinician should be acutely aware of those patients who may be at high risk for subtle injuries, such as individuals with undiagnosed diabetes who have decreased sensation in their feet.

Lisfranc injuries, especially subtle injuries, can often be missed.[17] As many as 20% of Lisfranc injuries are missed on initial presentation to the emergency department (ED).[18] Often, the initial radiograph is normal, particularly in athletes with only a first- or second-degree sprain. In a study by Sherief et al, eight of the nine clinicians who participated in the study missed a subtle Lisfranc injury in a diabetic neuropathic foot, and only 61% of the Lisfranc injuries in the study were accurately diagnosed by all nine.[19]

Plain Radiography

Obtain initial radiographs of the injured foot in all patients, as follows:

  • Anteroposterior (AP) view of the foot in a standing position, if possible - In the normal image, the medial border of the base of the second metatarsal (MT) and the middle cuneiform should line up; any gross diastasis greater than 2 mm between the bases of the first and second MTs suggests a Lisfranc injury (see the first and second images below)
  • Lateral view of the foot in a standing position, if possible - In this view, the superior border of the first MT base should align with the superior border of the medial cuneiform (see the third image below)
  • Medial 30º oblique view of the foot - In this view, the medial border of the cuboid should align with the medial border of the fourth MT (see the fourth and fifth images below)
In this anteroposterior radiograph of a Lisfranc d In this anteroposterior radiograph of a Lisfranc dislocation, note the disruption of the normal second tarsometatarsal alignment.
Standard anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates a Standard anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates a Lisfranc fracture dislocation. Determining the extent of fracture involving the joint is difficult with plain radiographs.
In this lateral radiograph of a typical Lisfranc i In this lateral radiograph of a typical Lisfranc injury, note the malalignment of the metatarsal bases with the midfoot.
In this medial oblique radiograph of a normal foot In this medial oblique radiograph of a normal foot, note the medial borders of the cuboid and fourth metatarsal base. They should be even, as depicted by the black lines.
In this medial oblique radiograph of a Lisfranc in In this medial oblique radiograph of a Lisfranc injury, note the loss of alignment between the cuboid and fourth metatarsal base (black lines). This is diagnostic of a Lisfranc injury and is as important as recognition of the second tarsometatarsal instability.

If a subtle injury is suspected, it is advisable to obtain a weightbearing AP view of both feet on the same cassette for direct comparison. Additionally, a stress-view radiograph can be performed in which the hindfoot position is maintained while the midfoot and forefoot are forced into pronation and abduction; this will demonstrate lateral subluxation of the first and second tarsometatarsal (TMT) joints with instability (see below).

A “fleck sign” seen on the AP radiograph is pathognomonic for a Lisfranc injury. This sign is reportedly present in 90% of Lisfranc ligament injuries. It represents an avulsion fracture from either the second MT base or the medial cuneiform, resulting from forceful abduction of the forefoot that avulses the strong Lisfranc ligament between the base of the second MT and the medial cuneiform.

The literature offers many approaches to classifying Lisfranc injuries on the basis of radiographic appearance. The value of these classifications is for reporting only. For the purposes of treatment, the major determinant is whether the joint complex is stable or unstable. This is determined by the radiographic stress views (see Procedures).

Computed Tomography

A routine computed tomography (CT) scan through the midfoot is suggested to visualize any bony injury to the plantar bony structures. CT also allows a three-dimensional (3D) assessment of surrounding joint stability. Midfoot stability is vital to adequate Lisfranc injury recovery. (See the image below.)

CT scan in the coronal plane can demonstrate the e CT scan in the coronal plane can demonstrate the extent of injury at the joint. Compare with the plain radiograph of this injury in the related image. Note the plantar avulsion, suggesting severe disruption of the plantar ligamentous structures.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

When compared with CT and weightbearing radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has an advantage in identifying partial ligament injuries and subtle ligament injuries.

With this technology, one can identify isolated tears of the Lisfranc ligament, as well as associated injuries to the interosseous ligaments. Raikin et al showed that MRI is accurate for detecting traumatic injury of the Lisfranc ligament and for predicting Lisfranc joint complex instability when the plantar Lisfranc ligament bundle is used as a predictor.[20]  Rupture or grade 2 sprain of the plantar ligament between the first cuneiform and the bases of the second and third MTs is highly suggestive of an unstable midfoot, which will require stabilization.

Other Imaging Studies

Bone scanning

Bone scanning is best used for suspected acute and chronic injuries of the TMT joints. A bone scan can demonstrate Lisfranc injuries that occurred 3 months before presentation and are continuing with painful weightbearing. Increased uptake on bone scans indicates degenerative changes that are not yet visible on plain films.


Nonvisualization of the of the dorsal C1-M2 ligament and a C1-C2 distance greater than 2.5 mm on ultrasonography (US) are indirect signs of a Lisfranc ligament tear. This technique also lends itself to being used in a dynamic fashion that might help make the diagnosis in patients with subtle injuries.[21]


In the acute setting, a stress view of the foot can help identify an unstable complex; however, this procedure can cause the patient severe discomfort. Using an ankle block or intravenous sedation, stress the foot under fluoroscopic examination or with standard x-rays. The hindfoot should be maintained while the midfoot and forefoot are pronated and abducted. An AP view of the TMT joints will reveal any significant instability (see the images below).

Stress view. This patient, with a suspected Lisfra Stress view. This patient, with a suspected Lisfranc injury, presents with a normal appearing anteroposterior radiograph of the foot. Plantar ecchymosis and clinical presentation of pain warrant further investigation. In this radiograph, alignment of the medial border of the second metatarsal and the medial cuneiform is near normal. Patient is unable to bear weight due to a femur fracture sustained in the same accident.
In this stressed view, with adequate anesthesia to In this stressed view, with adequate anesthesia to the patient, the foot is stressed in a medial/lateral plane. The forefoot is forced laterally with the hindfoot brought medially. Note that the second tarsometatarsal joint opens up, and the normal alignment between the medial border of the second metatarsal base and the middle cuneiform is distorted. This injury requires surgical stabilization.

Histologic Findings

Intraoperative findings that suggest a possible pathologic process should be sent to pathology for accurate diagnosis.


In athletic injuries, Nunley and Vertullo suggested a three-stage diagnostic classification, as follows[22] :

  • Stage I - Tear of dorsal ligaments with sparing of the Lisfranc ligament
  • Stage II - Direct injury to the Lisfranc ligament with elongation or rupture
  • Stage III - Progression of the above, with damage to the plantar TMT ligaments and joints, along with potential fracture and loss of arch


Approach Considerations

Patients with nondisplaced injuries are treated conservatively. The complex must maintain its reduction under physiologic stress; this is is important to note because Lisfranc injuries can spontaneously reduce but still be unstable. In stable injury patterns, conservative treatment entails nonweightbearing with immobilization in a controlled ankle motion (CAM) boot or short leg cast for a period of 6 weeks, followed by progressive weightbearing. It is quite rare for a true Lisfranc injury to be stable for conservative therapy. Closed treatment of displaced Lisfranc injuries should probably be reserved for patients who have sustained catastrophic spinal cord injuries and are not expected to walk again.

Patients with displaced Lisfranc injuries should undergo closed or open reduction. All Lisfranc injuries that cannot be reduced and be made to remain stable by closed means should undergo internal fixation. An absolute indication for open reduction is vascular compromise that does not improve with closed reduction.[4]  Successful closed reduction of displaced Lisfranc dislocations is quite rare. 

Anatomic alignment is important for stable function, but the risk of infection and soft-tissue compromise may preclude surgery until the tissues stabilize. Patients with open injuries or vascular compromise should be approached carefully. A delayed fusion of the medial three tarsometatarsal (TMT) joints can be performed if pain persists with weightbearing.

Future and controversies

Role of acute fusion

Stability at this joint level of the foot is the primary concern, and instability appears to be the primary pain generator. Because of the unpredictability of adequate ligamentous healing to support the foot, primary fusion of the medial three TMT joints has been advocated; however, studies have been inconsistent with regard to assessing open reduction with internal fixation (ORIF) versus primary arthrodesis (PA) for optimal acute treatment.[23, 24, 25]

In a study evaluating PA of the medial two or three TMT joints (n = 21) against ORIF (n = 20) in primarily ligamentous Lisfranc injuries, Ly et al reported that the PA group reached a postoperative activity level that was an estimated 92% of the preinjury level, whereas the ORIF group achieved an activity level that was only 65% of the preinjury level.[26, 27] They concluded that a stable PA seemed to have better short- and medium-term outcomes. It was unclear whether long-term results were improved.

Henning et al prospectively studied 40 patients who were randomly assigned to receive either primary ORIF (PORIF) or PA of the first, second, and third TMT joint combined with Kirschner-wire (K-wire) fixation of the fourth and fifth TMT joints.[28] At an average of 53 months postoperatively, 32 patients were interviewed by telephone. Using Short Form (SF)-36 and Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment (SMFA) scores, the authors found no significant differences in patient satisfaction between the two groups.

Because of planned hardware removal in the PORIF group, the reoperation rate in this group was significantly higher than that in the PA group.[28] The PA group did have different complications from the PORIF group, including a nonunion and a delayed union, both of which were treated nonoperatively. Although this was a level 1 study, it was limited by sample size, a low rate of participation among eligible patients, and a 20% loss of patients to follow-up.

A meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials by Smith et al demonstrated higher rates of removal of hardware with ORIF as compared with PA; there were otherwise no differences in risk for revision surgery, reported patient outcomes, or risk for nonanatomic reduction.[24]

A trial by Buda et al focused on the higher rate of removal of hardware seen in ORIF.[25] In this trial, removal of hardware was planned as part of the ORIF procedure. No difference in reoperation rates between ORIF and PA was noted.

Albright et al performed a cost-effectiveness analysis of PA versus ORIF and found that PA was significantly more cost-effective; the group cost for PA was $1429 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY), whereas that for ORIF was $3958/QALY.[29]  In view of the relatively limited resources available to the field, this difference in cost-effectiveness may play a larger role in future surgical considerations.

Timing of screw removal

Suggestions of length of time that screws should remain in place range from 6 weeks to 3 months after weightbearing begins (up to 6 months from the time of surgery). Results demonstrate that if fixation screws remain in place indefinitely, they have a high tendency to break with time, thereby causing pain. If the joint is not fused purposely during surgery, then some motion is expected; this constant motion causes hardware failure.

The timing of screw removal remains a question. Advocates of early removal stress the fear of early screw failure as the main reason for removal. Others believe that the screws should remain in place even during early weightbearing to slowly help condition the damaged ligaments to resume supporting the foot. Long-term follow-up is needed before this issue can be resolved.

Use of different bioabsorbable materials

The advantage of using different bioabsorbable materials to provide short-term stability following surgical reduction is that no screws need to be removed. Two key questions to be answered are as follows:

  • What effect do degradation products have on joint chemistry?
  • Is the sheer strength of bioabsorbable screws sufficient to maintain the reduction in this situation?

In 2002, Thordarson et al reported results from 14 patients at an average follow-up of 20 months. At this short-term follow-up, they determined that bioabsorbable screws are safe and that they eliminate the need for screw removal. Larger studies with long-term follow-up are needed to determine the true efficacy.[30]

Suture button fixation

Several papers have addressed the use of suture button fixation in Lisfranc injuries with the hope of allowing some physiologic motion and to avoid putting screws across the articular cartilage of the first cuneiform and the second MT.

Ahmed et al[31] did a cadaveric study that showed more displacement with suture button fixation of isolated Lisfranc ligament injuries in cadaver specimens, which was in contradistinction to the study by Panchbhavi et al,[32] which showed equivalence. Brin et al[33] reported satisfactory results in five recreational and professional athletes. Lundeen and Sara,[34] Baravarian and Geffen,[35] and Watson et al[36] also described their anecdotal use of this technique.

Medical Therapy

Medical treatment is reserved for injuries that are anatomically stable and nondisplaced. This type of injury is best labeled as a sprain, though associated fractures in the surrounding bone may be present (eg, metatarsal [MT] fracture). An athlete with a stable Lisfranc injury usually cannot compete for the remainder of the season. Early return to high-level activity can lead to chronic pain and progressive arthropathy. Therefore, athletes should be given special consideration.

Initial treatment should consist of a well-molded nonweightbearing short leg cast worn for a minimum of 6 weeks. Advancement of ambulation depends on resolution of symptoms. Because many of these injuries initially present with midfoot edema that may help stabilize damaged tissues, all stable injuries should be reexamined approximately 2 weeks after injury. Weightbearing radiographs should be obtained at 4-6 weeks to ensure continued anatomic alignment.

After 6 weeks, progressive weightbearing can be allowed in a well-molded cast, advancing as comfort allows. When full weightbearing in a cast is comfortable, the patient can be advanced to a supportive shoe and reconditioning. The patient can be advanced to an accommodative orthotic with a contoured carbon shank so as to minimize midfoot stress.

Combined closed reduction and casting has no role in the treatment of unstable injuries. Constantly maintaining reduction with casting alone has proved too difficult. In addition, interposing soft tissues can impede closed reduction. For example, the anterior tibial tendon can block reduction of a lateral Lisfranc dislocation; similarly, the peroneus brevis tendon can block a medial dislocation reduction.

Surgical Therapy

For all injuries that are displaced and unstable, surgical treatment is required.[36] Complete assessment of the intercuneiform and cuboid integrity is important for determining stability. Clinical outcome is highly dependent on restoration of normal anatomic alignment.

Present recommendations for treatment consist of open reduction of the unstable area along with rigid fixation, with options in terms of the screws employed (eg, 3.5-mm cortical screws or 4.0-4.5 cannulated screws, depending on the size of the bone) and the use of plate fixation.[37] Multiple K-wires also have been advocated, but maintaining reduction with them is more difficult.[38] In fact, screw fixation (see the image below) has been shown to provide significantly greater biomechanical stability than K-wire fixation does.[39]

This diagram depicts the suggested fixation order This diagram depicts the suggested fixation order of placement and alignment of screws for surgical fixation of unstable Lisfranc injuries.

In the past few years, there has been a focus on transarticular screw fixation as a source of posttraumatic arthritis. Dorsal plate fixation has been suggested as an alternative that would not violate the articular surface. A small case series demonstrated that dorsal plating can appropriately maintain reduction of the Lisfranc joint.[40]  Studies have shown equivalent or improved outcomes with bridge plating as compared with transarticular screws. Kirzner et al demonstrated better functional and radiologic outcomes with bridge plating,[41] whereas Lau et al saw equivalent outcomes that were dependent on the quality of anatomic reduction, irrespective of the type of fixation.[11]

Primary fusion is typically reserved for use as a salvage operation, though some surgeons advocate PA. A study of factors affecting the success of TMT fusion found that isolated plate fixation (without transarticular screw fixation), smoking in the perioperative period, and nonanatomic alignment were all associated with decreased rates of fusion.[42] Bone grafting was significantly associated with improved union rates.

Guide wires should be placed carefully under fluoroscopic control to avoid multiple passes through the involved joint. In addition, they should be placed plantar to the midline to avoid fractures.

Alternative surgical treatments include the following:

  • PA of the first, second, and third MT-cuneiform joints
  • Suture button fixation

At present, however, the evidence supporting the use of these techniques is modest.[43]

Presentation variations

In cases of pure dislocation, openly reduce all joints, then perform fixation of the medial joints with 3.5-mm cortical screws. Once these are anatomically aligned and fixed, the lateral two joints can be stabilized with 1.6-mm K-wires, if this is necessary to maintain position. Because of the ligamentous interconnections, wires often are not required. (See the images below.)

Preoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrat Preoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates a Lisfranc dislocation.
Preoperative lateral radiograph demonstrates a Lis Preoperative lateral radiograph demonstrates a Lisfranc dislocation.
Postoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstra Postoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates reduction and fixation of Lisfranc dislocation.
Postoperative lateral radiograph illustrates place Postoperative lateral radiograph illustrates placement of fixation screws for stabilization of Lisfranc joint.

In cases of proximal instability—including tarsal instability and longitudinal impaction injuries that can disrupt the normal arcade of the TMT joints—openly reduce and hold with fixation screws any instability between tarsal bones. If necessary, a miniature external fixator can be used to control proximal migration and comminution.

Anatomically restore any shortening of the tarsals, and graft the defect with a structural graft from the iliac crest or proximal tibia. If more than 50% of the joint surface is destroyed, perform primary fusion among the involved bones to preserve long-term stability. Treatment then can proceed as it would for a pure dislocation. (See the image below.)

Preoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrat Preoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates a Lisfranc injury with proximal tarsal instability. The medial cuneiform is displaced medially, bringing the joint line level with the second. The proximal anatomy must be restored and stabilized before addressing the tarsometatarsal joint.

MT fractures distal to the Lisfranc joint sometimes can interfere with stable fixation. In these instances, use intramedullary K-wires in conjunction with open reduction to achieve anatomic realignment of the foot. (See the image below.)

Postoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstra Postoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates restoration of normal midfoot alignment. Screw fixation was used to stabilize the cuneiform prior to realigning the Lisfranc joint. Due to comminution of the second and third metatarsal shafts, Kirschner wires were used to hold their position. In this case, due to continued instability, a wire through the fourth tarsometatarsal joint was also used.

Interarticular injury involves destruction of the articular surface either through bony fracture or through traumatic removal of cartilage from the subchondral bone. Anatomically restore large fragments. Remove interarticular debris, and assess the remaining joint. If more than 50% of the joint surface of the medial three joints is destroyed, consider acute fusion of these joints. Irrespective of the amount of damage to the articular surface of the lateral two joints, they should never undergo acute fusion.

In patients with diabetes, if the dislocation is found acutely before the onset of significant Charcot arthropathy, arthrodesis of the involved first, second, and third TMT joints can be beneficial. Take special care to document that blood flow is adequate for healing from the surgical procedure (transcutaneous pressure of oxygen [tcPO2] or toe pressure >40 mm Hg).

Fuse the medial three TMT joints, regardless of their articular integrity. Prolonged nonweightbearing in a total contact cast is necessary to prevent reinjury due to neuropathy. Casting should be changed every 2 weeks. Weightbearing status is assessed by evidence of solid fusion on follow-up radiographs. Fusions frequently take twice as long as they do in nonneuropathic patients.

Procedural details

Often, surgery should be delayed until excessive swelling has resolved. Swelling places the soft tissues at risk. Supine position with a thigh or ankle tourniquet is recommended. Be aware of and ready to address all injuries present before beginning the surgical procedure.

A two-incision approach works best for complete visualization. The medial incision is in line with the first webspace. The branches of the superficial peroneal nerve are identified and protected. The muscle belly of the extensor hallucis brevis covers the neurovascular bundle. Identify and protect the deep peroneal nerve, dorsalis pedis artery, and extensor tendons. Once the area of the second TMT joint is reached, perform subperiosteal dissection across the Lisfranc joint to minimize damage to soft-tissue structures.

If needed, a second incision is based over the lateral border of the third MT and is carried distally. The extensor digitorum brevis is divided bluntly, and the TMTs are entered subperiosteally. In this region, the third and fourth TMT joints literally are one on top of the other and are easily visualized.

With the tarsus stabilized and the joints inspected, reduction can be carried out with gentle pressure and manipulation. The author finds it easiest to reduce the medial column first by placing a provisional wire across the first TMT joint and, if necessary, a provisional wire between the first and second cuneiforms. If acceptable reduction is achieved, appropriate MT-to-cuneiform screws are then placed.

The second part of the procedure is connecting the medial and middle columns. A screw is placed across the medial cuneiform to the base of the second MT so as to reduce the Lisfranc diastasis. Other authors suggest starting with the second MT–to–medial cuneiform fixation. A large, pointed bone-reduction clamp can be used to hold the reduction while screws are placed.[44] (See the images below.)

Postoperative lateral radiograph illustrates place Postoperative lateral radiograph illustrates placement of fixation screws for stabilization of Lisfranc joint.
Postoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstra Postoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates fixation of the metatarsal, as well as stabilization of the Lisfranc joint.

An additional screw may be placed from the medial cuneiform to the middle cuneiform to complete the "box" with screws from the first and second MTs to their respective cuneiforms and the Lisfranc screw.

Because no real tissue layers are present at this level of the foot, wound closure can be accomplished with an absorbable suture to close joint capsules and a nonabsorbable suture in using a vertical or horizontal mattress technique to close the skin.

Plate fixation

The approach and initial fracture reduction for plate fixation are similar to those for screw fixation. Once the reduction has been achieved, the dorsal plate can be applied. Typically, this procedure is used for comminuted fractures to bridge across the TMT joints (first, second, third, or some combination thereof). The fourth and fifth TMT joints are fixed with K-wires, which are removed at 6 weeks to prevent stiffness at these flexible joints.

Postoperative Care

The authors recommend a well-padded posterior splint be used from immediately after the procedure until swelling subsides in 1-2 weeks. At that time, the splint can be converted to a nonweightbearing short leg cast if swelling permits. During the 2-week postoperative visit, remove sutures.

The patient should remain immobilized in a nonweightbearing short leg cast until 6-8 weeks after surgery. At that time, as symptoms permit, the cast can be switched to a removable boot or walking cast for another 6 weeks. During the 6-week postoperative visit, radiographically assess healing. If K-wires were used, they should be removed during this visit.


The following can be considered complications of Lisfranc injury:

  • Foot compartment syndrome after a major trauma
  • Nonanatomic reduction or alignment
  • Posttraumatic midfoot arthritis (most common) [45]
  • Painful hardware, hardware failure, or breakage
  • Flatfoot deformity with instability with weightbearing
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (only two cases reported)
  • Neuromas (usually the superficial peroneal nerve)
  • Infections and wound complications
  • Vascular injuries [45, 46]

Along this joint line, continued chronic pain with weightbearing is best treated with fusion of the first, second, and third TMT joints in an anatomically correct position. With realignment and stabilization of the medial joints, laterally based pain usually subsides. (See the images below.)

Preoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrat Preoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrates a missed old Lisfranc injury with subsequent valgus foot deformity and painful weight bearing throughout the midfoot.
Preoperative lateral radiograph demonstrates loss Preoperative lateral radiograph demonstrates loss of plantar integrity through Lisfranc joint area. The normal linear alignment of the bones from the metatarsal to the talus is lost, with a sag at the tarsometatarsal joint.
In this postoperative anteroposterior radiograph d In this postoperative anteroposterior radiograph demonstrating reduction of Lisfranc alignment and screw configuration for tarsometatarsal fusion, note that only the medial 3 joints are fused. The lateral 2 joints remain mobile and actually open up when compared with the previous pictures.

Treat persistent lateral pain following realignment of the medial joints with interposition arthroplasty rather than fusion. This is best performed using a segment of extensor digitorum brevis tendon rolled up and interposed into the debrided joint. This allows continued motion and prevents the compressive bony contact that generates the pain.

Long-Term Monitoring

Follow-up is continued on a monthly basis until full weightbearing is achieved.

After 3-6 months, remove fixation screws across the TMT joints. Allow weightbearing as tolerated in a supportive shoe with accommodative insole and carbon shank.

The issue of how long screws should remain is controversial, as is the question of whether weightbearing should be permitted before screws are removed. Physicians agree that screws across viable joints should be left in no longer than 6 months from the time of surgery. Some advocate that no weightbearing be allowed until the screws are removed, at 3 months after surgery.


Questions & Answers


What is Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the anatomy of the Lisfranc joint relevant to Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the pathophysiology of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What causes Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the prevalence of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the prognosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is included in patient education about Lisfranc fracture dislocation?


What is the clinical presentation of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What are the signs and symptoms of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

Which physical findings are characteristic of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the mechanism of injury for Lisfranc fracture dislocation in athletes?

How are Lisfranc fracture dislocations classified in athletes?


What is the role of lab testing in the diagnosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

How frequently are Lisfranc fracture dislocations missed on initial presentation?

What is the role of plain radiography in the diagnosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of CT in the diagnosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of MRI in the diagnosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of bone scanning in the diagnosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of ultrasonography in the diagnosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of stress view imaging in the diagnosis of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of histology in the management of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

How are Lisfranc fracture dislocations staged?


How are Lisfranc fracture dislocations treated?

What is the role of acute fusion in the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the timing of screw removal in the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the advantage of using different bioabsorbable materials in the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of suture button fixation in the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of casting in the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of surgery in the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

How are Lisfranc fracture dislocation variations treated?

How is surgery performed for the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the role of plate fixation in the treatment of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is the postoperative care following surgery for Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What are the possible complications of Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

How is chronic pain managed following treatment for Lisfranc fracture dislocation?

What is included in the long-term monitoring of patients with Lisfranc fracture dislocation?