A new ultrasound technique may prove to be a quick and minimally invasive treatment for a common and painful foot condition known as plantar fasciitis, a latest study, led by an Indian-American scientist, has found.
The ultrasound therapy is an entirely “novel approach” that uses ultrasonic energy to cut and remove damaged, pain-generating tissue while sparing healthy foot tissue, according to Dr Rahul Razdan, an interventional radiologist with Advanced Medical Imaging in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“While the long-term outcome studies are in progress, the results we have seen to date are very promising,” said Razdan, the study lead author.
The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society describes plantar fasciitis as essentially an “overuse injury” resulting from inflammation of a band of tissue in the sole of the foot that links the heel bone to the base of the toes.
According to Razdan, standard treatment includes painkillers, cortisone shots, icing, heating, massage, silicone arch supports, and physical therapy centred on the benefits of controlled stretching.
For some patients, invasive surgery is another option.
In the study, Razdan’s team tested the procedure on 65 patients who sought care at an interventional radiology clinic in 2013 and 2014.
All had chronic plantar fasciitis, and all had failed to respond to standard treatments.
During the ultrasound therapy, doctors guided a hollow needle tip into an area of “problem” tissue by means of ultrasound guidance.
Once in position, the tip targeted a combination of high frequency/low amplitude sound to the damaged foot region.
That broke up the pain-generating tissue, which was then extracted out of the foot.
In total, average treatment time was about a minute and a half, and sedation was not used.
By two weeks after treatment, patients showed more than a 90 per cent improvement (on average) in their foot disability assessments, compared with their pre-treatment status.
These improvements appeared to persist for at least six months out, with no notable complications, Razdan said.
“It is important for patients suffering from chronic plantar fasciitis to know that they have treatment options,” added Razdan.
“We have patients who are in so much pain they can’t even play with their kids or take their dog for a walk. This ultrasonic treatment can give patients their lives back and let them enjoy their lives. We are excited to see significant results from this treatment,” he said.
Chronic plantar fasciitis is the most common debilitating foot complaint, affecting approximately ten per cent of the population and accounting for more than one million office visits annually in the US, said Razdan.