Objective: Plantar fasciitis (PF) is a common clinical condition that usually resolves with non-operative treatments. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) has been used in the treatment of chronic PF not responding to other conservative measures; however, ESWT devices are expensive and available for daily practice in only few centers (In developing countries). A pneumatic lithotripter is a cheap and readily available device which uses pneumatic shock application for the intracorporeal lithotripsy. The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical efficacy of intracorporeal pneumatic shock therapy (IPST) application for the treatment of chronic PF using a cheap and readily available pneumatic lithotripter.
Methods: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted. A total of 50 patients with clinically and radiologically confirmed PF were randomly allocated to either an active- (treatment) (n = 25) or inactive (placebo) (n = 25) group. Under local anesthesia and posterior tibial nerve block, a rigid probe was directly introduced into the calcaneal spur under fluoroscopic control; a standard protocol of 1,000 shock was applied during a single session into the calcaneal spur. The main outcome measure was the patients' subjective assessment of pain by means of a Visual Analog Scale (VAS) and the Roles and Maudsley Score before the treatment and 6 months later.
Results: At the 6 months, the rate of successful outcomes (excellent + good results) in the treatment group (92%) were significantly higher comparing to the control group (24%) (P < 0.001). Heel pain measured 6 months after using the VAS were 2.04 +/- 1.67 in treatment group and 7.16 +/- 1.57 in control group as compared to 8.92 +/- 1.22 and 9.12 +/- 1.23 before the commencement of the treatment. No complications attributable to the procedure such as rupture of the planter fascia, hematoma, or infection were observed during the study.
Conclusions: This pilot study showed that IPST is an effective and safe method of treatment of patients with chronic PF not responding to conservative measures. IPST application should be considered before surgical intervention when the extracorporeal shock devices are not available for daily practice. However, further evaluation of this novel treatment is necessary to understand the exact mechanism of action.