Complications of extracorporeal shockwave therapy in plantar fasciitis: Systematic review

Int J Surg. 2017 Oct:46:133-145. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2017.08.587. Epub 2017 Sep 7.


Background: Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) seems to be an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis (PF) and is assumed to be safe. No systematic reviews have been published that specifically studied the complications and side effects of ESWT in treating PF. Aim of this systematic review is therefore to evaluate the complications and side effects of ESWT in order to determine whether ESWT is a safe treatment for PF.

Methods: For this systematic review the databases PubMed, MEDLINE, Cochrane and Embase were used to search for relevant literature between 1 January 2005 and 1 January 2017. PRISMA guidelines were followed.

Results: Thirty-nine studies were included for this review, representing 2493 patients (2697 heels) who received between 6424 and 6497 ESWT treatment sessions, with an energy flux density between 0.01 mJ/mm2 and 0.64 mJ/mm2 and a frequency of 1000-3800 SWs. Average follow-up was 14.7 months (range: 24 h - 6 years). Two complications occurred: precordial pain and a superficial skin infection after regional anaesthesia. Accordingly, 225 patients reported pain during treatment and 247 reported transient red skin after treatment. Transient pain after treatment, dysesthesia, swelling, ecchymosis and/or petechiae, severe headache, bruising and a throbbing sensation were also reported.

Conclusion: ESWT is likely a safe treatment for PF. No complications are expected at one-year follow-up. However, according to the current literature long-term complications are unknown. Better descriptions of treatment protocols, patient characteristics and registration of complications and side effects, especially pain during treatment, are recommended.

Keywords: Adverse events; Complications; ESWT; Extracorporeal shock wave therapy; Plantar fasciitis; Plantar fasciopathy; Safe; Safety; Side effects.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Fasciitis, Plantar / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology