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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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.