Affiliations
Also part of the UPMC family:
Also part of the UPMC family:

Foot Fat Grafting at UPMC

The Department of Plastic Surgery at UPMC has developed innovative new treatments for people who have foot pain. If you suffer from fat pad atrophy or chronic plantar fasciitis, we can help get you back to doing the activities you love.

What Is Fat Pad Atrophy?

Your foot has specialized fat pads that surround the bones. They absorb shock and provide protection when walking or running. But, over time, these fat pads can dissipate.

Fat pad atrophy — or abnormal fat pad breakdown — causes thinning of the protective cushion around the foot’s bones. This can make walking and other impact activities extremely painful.

Fat pad atrophy risks and causes

With all the walking humans do, foot fat pad breakdown is likely, and certain foot conditions can cause breakdown much faster.

The following activities can increase your risk for fat pad atrophy:

  • Running, especially long distances
  • Playing high-impact sports
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Walking and other daily activities
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Aging

What Is Chronic Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It supports and protects the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this ligament becomes strained or inflamed, causing tiny tears.

Chronic plantar fasciitis occurs when the condition lasts six or more months despite attempts to eliminate pain. Because of chronic plantar fasciitis, the plantar fascia thickens, leading to near-constant pain.

Treatment: Foot Fat Grafting

Fat grafting to the foot is a potential treatment to help ease pain from fat pad atrophy and chronic plantar fasciitis.

In this procedure, doctors harvest fat cells through liposuction from an area of fat excess, such as the belly or thighs. Once processed, doctors inject the fat cells into the injured area of the foot.

Using one’s own fat cells in the grafting process lessens the chance of an allergic reaction or rejection of the tissue.

For people with foot pad atrophy, fat grafting can:

  • Increase the cushioning around the bony parts of the foot
  • Provide more shock absorption
  • Reduce foot pain and callus formation

Replacing the fat pad cushion offers much needed relief to aching feet. It also helps limit shoe irritation and excess pressure when standing.

For those with chronic plantar fasciitis, injecting these fat cells can help:

  • Thin the plantar fascia
  • Promote healing of the ligament
  • Reduce or end heel pain

Study Shows Long-Lasting Improvements from Fat Grafting

Jeffrey Gusenoff, MD, a UPMC plastic surgeon, and Beth Gusenoff, DPM, a podiatrist, pioneered and led a two-year study on this minimally invasive treatment. The physicians, who also serve as professor and clinical assistant professor, respectively, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, applied cutting-edge plastic surgery and podiatry techniques to develop this treatment.

Learn more about the study on the effectiveness of fat grafting for fat pad atrophy.

FIND A DOCTOR
Find a Doctor

Browse UPMC doctors and medical professionals to find the care that's right for you. Customize your search by specialty, zip code, last name, and more.


Visit the UPMC Find a Doctor website.
MAKE AN APPOINTMENT
Make an Appointment

Find important information on scheduling your appointment or finding a doctor or service that meets your needs.


Request an appointment now.
FIND A LOCATION
Find a Location

Browse addresses and contact information for our network of hospitals, specialty care practices, and community health locations.


Find a UPMC location near you.
PAY A BILL
Pay Your Bill

Learn more about how to pay your UPMC bill. Find resources including payment methods and contact information for assistance.


Pay your bill now.
FIND A CAREER
Find a Career

Advance your career with UPMC. Discover our latest job listings and learn about our values and career pathways.


Find your ideal career at UPMC.