Heel Pain Relief: What Is Plantar Fasciotomy and How Is It Done?

Chronic plantar fasciitis is a common ailment that affects the daily lives of countless individuals. It's characterized by intense pain in the heel and arch of the foot, often making even the simplest activities, like walking, a painful ordeal. 

If you've been struggling with chronic plantar fasciitis, you're not alone. This blog post delves into plantar fasciotomy, how it is performed, and its benefits to individuals with plantar fasciitis. 

What is plantar fasciotomy?

Plantar fasciotomy is a medical intervention aimed at alleviating chronic plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a condition where the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot, becomes inflamed.

Plantar fasciitis typically causes sharp, stabbing heel pain, especially with the first steps in the morning or after periods of rest. This pain can be quite debilitating and may worsen during prolonged standing or walking.

The procedure aims to alleviate the symptoms of chronic plantar fasciitis, improve mobility, and enhance the patient's overall quality of life.

Who is a good candidate for plantar fasciotomy?

While the decision to undergo plantar fasciotomy should be made in consultation with an orthopedic doctor, a good candidate typically meets the following criteria:

  • Has chronic plantar fasciitis that impairs daily activities.
  • Has plantar fasciitis that has not responded to conservative treatment options.
  • Is in relatively good health with no major medical conditions.
  • Has realistic expectations
  • Has discussed the procedure with an orthopedic specialist.

The decision to undergo plantar fasciotomy should be made after consultation with a doctor and a thorough evaluation of the patient's condition, medical history, and individual circumstances.

How is it performed?

Plantar fasciotomy can be performed using different techniques, depending on the surgeon's preference and the patient's specific needs. Here is an overview of the main methods of performing the procedure:

  1. Open plantar fasciotomy

In this traditional surgical approach, the surgeon incurs the bottom of the foot to access the plantar fascia. The incision is typically made in the area near the heel or the arch.

  1. Endoscopic plantar fasciotomy

Endoscopic plantar fasciotomy is a minimally invasive technique. Instead of a large open incision, the surgeon makes one or more small incisions near the heel or arch of the foot.

A thin, tube-like instrument called an endoscope, equipped with a camera and surgical tools, is inserted through the incision to visualize and operate on the plantar fascia.

This approach aims to minimize scarring, reduce post-operative pain, and speed up the recovery process.

  1. Radiofrequency coblation plantar fasciotomy

This newer technique uses radiofrequency energy to create small lesions in the plantar fascia, which reduces its tension. The surgeon inserts a special probe through a small incision in the skin, and radiofrequency energy is applied to the fascia.

The procedure is minimally invasive and is believed to have the advantage of causing less damage to surrounding tissues.

Regardless of the technique used, the goal of plantar fasciotomy is to release or partially cut the plantar fascia, which reduces tension and inflammation. 

The choice of technique depends on the surgeon's expertise, the patient's condition, and factors such as the extent of the fascia release and the preference for minimally invasive surgery.

Frequently asked questions about plantar fasciotomy surgery

Is there an ideal time for surgery, or should I wait until my condition worsens?

The timing of surgery is a decision to be made in consultation with an orthopedic specialist. It's generally recommended when conservative treatments have failed and the pain significantly impacts your daily life.

How to prepare for a plantar fasciotomy?

Your surgeon will provide specific guidelines for the days leading up to your surgery. This might involve dietary restrictions, medication adjustments, or lifestyle changes to ensure a smooth procedure.

You may also arrange for someone to assist you during the initial days of your recovery, as well as someone to drive you to and from the surgery center.

What to expect right after the surgery?

You will likely wake up in the recovery room with some pain or discomfort. Your foot may be numb, depending on the type of anesthesia used during the surgery. You may also have some bandaging or a surgical dressing around your incision.

Additionally, you'll be advised to keep your foot elevated and avoid putting weight on the operated foot. Crutches or a walker may be used to assist with mobility.

What is the recovery process like?

Here’s a general overview of what you can expect during the recovery process:

  • Your surgeon will guide you on when you can gradually bear weight on the operated foot. This is typically a gradual process, and you'll likely begin with partial weight-bearing.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended to help improve foot strength, flexibility, and mobility. Therapists can guide you through exercises to facilitate your recovery.
  • Continue attending follow-up appointments with your surgeon to monitor your progress. They may also remove any remaining stitches if necessary.
  • Continue to practice the exercises and foot care recommended by your physical therapist and surgeon to maintain foot health and reduce the risk of recurrence.

How long does it take to return to normal activities after the surgery?

The time it takes to return to normal activities can vary from person to person. Most patients can gradually resume activities within a few months, depending on individual healing and adherence to post-surgery recommendations.

What are the expected outcomes of the surgery?

Plantar fasciotomy is generally effective in reducing heel pain and improving mobility. However, individual results can vary, and it's important to have realistic expectations.

While many patients experience relief from pain after surgery, it may not guarantee a pain-free future. Lifestyle factors and adherence to post-surgery recommendations can influence long-term outcomes.

Are there any potential risks or complications associated with the surgery?

Like any surgical procedure, plantar fasciotomy carries some risks, including infection, nerve damage, or delayed healing. These risks are relatively low, and most patients recover without complications.

Where to find the best outpatient orthopedic clinic?

At the Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek, our commitment is to provide you with unparalleled orthopedic care and services. 

We understand that choosing an orthopaedic surgery center is a significant decision, and that’s why we want to assure you that you are in safe, capable hands with our experienced surgeons, state-of-the-art facility, and stringent safety protocols.

Both Raleigh Orthopaedic and Panther Creek take immense pride in being recognized as two of the leading surgery centers in the state. But more than that, we are beyond honored to be known as trusted healthcare providers within our respective communities. 

Your journey to optimal orthopedic health begins here. Contact us now to learn more!

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
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