BACKGROUND: Evidence from prospective short-term studies suggest that proximal medial gastrocnemius recession is a safe and efficient procedure to treat chronic plantar fasciitis resistant to nonoperative treatment. The aim of this study is to evaluate the long-term clinical outcomes of proximal medial gastrocnemius recession and stretching compared to a stretching exercise protocol for patients with chronic plantar fasciitis and an isolated gastrocnemius contracture (IGC).
METHODS: Forty patients with plantar fasciitis lasting more than 1 year were prospectively randomized to a home stretching exercise program only, or to proximal medial gastrocnemius recession in addition to the stretching program. Clinical and functional data in this study were obtained at baseline and 6-year follow-up. The main outcome was the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) ankle-hindfoot score. Secondary outcomes were the visual analog scale (VAS) for pain, the Manchester Oxford Foot Questionnaire (MOxFQ), ankle dorsiflexion, and Achilles complex performance.
RESULTS: Thirty-three of 40 patients completed the 6-year follow-up. Seven patients had crossed over from nonoperative treatment to operative treatment. At 6 years, the operative group demonstrated significantly better outcomes with AOFAS (88.9 vs 78.6, P = .012), for pain measured by VAS (2.5 vs 5.5, P < .001) and with the MOxFQ total score (24.4 vs 45.9, P = .05) (per protocol analysis excluding crossovers). No between-group differences were observed for ankle dorsiflexion or Achilles complex performance at 6 years.
CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that the improved function and reduced level of pain by proximal medial gastrocnemius recession and stretching is better compared to stretching alone after 6 years of follow-up for patients with chronic plantar fasciitis and a concomitant isolated gastrocnemius contracture.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level I, randomized controlled trial.