Tarsal Coalition | Testing & Diagnosis

How is tarsal coalition diagnosed?

At Boston Children's Hospital, we know that the first step to treating your child’s tarsal coalition is to form a timely, complete and accurate diagnosis. To diagnose your child’s condition, the doctor conducts a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor takes your child’s complete prenatal, birth and family medical history. The doctor also orders standing x-rays as the initial imaging tool.

To confirm the diagnosis and give valuable information about the type of coalition, its location and how the joints have been affected, either of the following diagnostic tests may be performed:

  • computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan): Considered the gold standard for diagnosing tarsal coalitions, a CT scan is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional horizontal and vertical images (called "slices") of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body—including bones, muscles, fat and organs.
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. This test is done to rule out any associated abnormalities of the spinal cord and nerves.

Boston Children’s Hospital doctors routinely take images of both of a child’s feet, even if only one foot is painful. This is because sometimes the child can have the condition in both feet (bilateral), yet only one foot is painful.