Background: There are a number of different treatment options available for recalcitrant plantar fasciitis, with limited high-level evidence to guide nonoperative and operative treatment methods. The purpose of this study was to determine the current preferred nonoperative and operative treatment methods for recalcitrant plantar fasciitis by a group of experienced orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons.
Methods: A hypothetical patient with recalcitrant plantar fasciitis was developed as the basis for a survey comprised of seven questions. The questions related to the surgeon's preferred treatment after 4~months of failed nonoperative management and then after 10 months of recalcitrant symptoms. The survey was sent to committee members of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS).
Results: Eighty-four orthopaedic surgeons completed the survey (84 out of 116; response rate=72%). At the 4-month visit, when questioned regarding their most preferred next step in management, 37 (44%) respondents favored initiation of plantar fascia-specific stretching (PFSS), 20 (24%) supervised physical therapy, 17 (20%) night splinting, five (6%) steroid injection, three (4%) custom orthotics, and two (2%) cast or boot immobilization. With ongoing symptoms at 10~months, 62 (74%) respondents chose surgery or ECSWT (extracorporeal shock wave therapy) as their next step in management. Some form of surgery (alone or in combination) was chosen by 46 (55%) respondents. The most popular operative interventions were gastrocnemius recession (alone or in combination with another procedure) and open partial plantar fascia release with nerve decompression.
Conclusions: For shorter duration symptoms, tissue-specific stretching and conditioning methods were favored over anti-inflammatory or structural support modalities which is consistent with available high-level evidence studies. Heterogeneity of operative preferences for chronic symptoms highlighted the need for further high-quality studies.