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Ultrasound scanning for recalcitrant plantar fasciopathy. Basis of a new classification.
Ieong E, Afolayan J, Carne A, Solan M. Skeletal Radiol. 2012 Jul 22.
The treatment of recalcitrant plantar fasciopathy is often empirical. Imaging is usually in the form of radiographs, if undertaken at all. The aim of this study is to characterise the disease pattern in recalcitrant cases of plantar fasciopathy. This allows classification of the pathology, which in turn allows meaningful evaluation of current and future treatments.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
One hundred and twenty-five consecutive feet with symptoms of 'plantar fasciitis' lasting longer than 6 months (all of which had failed to improve with a stepwise conservative management protocol) had confirmed plantar fasciopathy on ultrasound scanning. The disease characteristics were evaluated based on the scan findings.
Of the patients evaluated, 66 % had typical insertional disease. The remaining 34 % had atypical distal fascia disease; 22 % had mixed insertional and distal disease, and 12 % had pure distal disease. Patients with pure distal disease were found to have either distal thickening or discrete fibromata.
In this cohort of recalcitrant cases, ultrasound scans detected a high proportion of atypical non-insertional plantar fascia disease. This would not be detected without imaging studies, and therefore we recommend the use of ultrasound scanning in cases of recalcitrant plantar heel pain that have failed proper first-line management, in order to confirm the clinical diagnosis and to classify the disease as either insertional or non-insertional plantar fasciopathy (or mixed disease). Only in this way can treatments for this group of patients be systematically evaluated against different disease patterns to determine their effectiveness.
To evaluate the intra- and interrater reliability of ultrasonographic measurements of the thickness and echogenicity of the plantar fascia.
Eleven patients (20 feet), who complained of inferior heel pain, and 26 volunteers (52 feet) were enrolled. Two sonographers independently imaged the plantar fascia in both longitudinal and transverse planes. Volunteers were assessed twice to evaluate intrarater reliability. Quantitative evaluation of the echogenicity of the plantar fascia was performed by measuring the mean gray level of the region of interest using Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine viewer software.
Sonographic evaluation of the thickness of the plantar fascia showed high reliability. Sonographic evaluations of the presence or absence of hypoechoic change in the plantar fascia showed surprisingly low agreement. The reliability of gray-scale evaluations appears to be much better than subjective judgments in the evaluation of echogenicity. Transverse scanning did not show any advantage in sonographic evaluation of the plantar fascia.
The reliability of sonographic examination of the thickness of the plantar fascia is high. Mean gray-level analysis of quantitative sonography can be used for the evaluation of echogenicity, which could reduce discrepancies in the interpretation of echogenicity by different sonographers. Longitudinal instead of transverse scanning is recommended for imaging the plantar fascia.