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Association between plantar fascia vascularity and morphology and foot dysfunction in individuals with chronic plantar fasciitis.

STUDY DESIGN: Single-cohort laboratory-based study.

OBJECTIVES: To identify whether plantar fascia vascularity and thickness are associated with foot pain and dysfunction in individuals with chronic plantar fasciitis. Background Altered plantar fascia vascularity and thickening of the fascia have been identified in individuals with chronic plantar fasciitis.

METHODS: Thirty-eight patients with chronic unilateral plantar fasciitis and 21 controls participated in this study. Proximal plantar fascia vascularization and thickness were assessed using ultrasound imaging, and pain and foot dysfunction were quantified with a visual analog scale and the Chinese version of the Foot Function Index, respectively. Paired t tests were used to assess the side-to-side differences in fascia thickness and vascularity index (VI) in the control and patient groups, and an unpaired t test was used to make comparisons with the patient group. Multiple regression analysis was performed to identify whether the VI and fascia thickness were associated with pain and foot dysfunction.

RESULTS: There were significantly higher VI (mean ± SD, 2.4% ± 1.4%) and fascia thickness (5.0 ± 1.3 mm) values in the affected feet when compared with the unaffected feet in the patient group (VI, 1.4% ± 0.5%; fascia thickness, 3.3 ± 0.7 mm) and with the dominant side of the controls (VI, 1.6% ± 0.4%; fascia thickness, 2.9 ± 0.6 mm). After accounting for age, gender, body mass index, and duration of symptoms, the VI explained 13% and 33% of the variance in pain scores measured with a visual analog scale and the pain subscale of the Foot Function Index, respectively; the VI and fascia thickness explained 42% of the variance in the Foot Function Index.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with unilateral chronic plantar fasciitis demonstrated significantly greater vascularity and thickened fascia on the affected side compared to the unaffected side and also to healthy controls. Fascia vascularity was associated independently with self-perceived pain, and both fascia vascularity and thickness were associated with foot dysfunction in patients with chronic plantar fasciitis. Public trials registry: Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN49594569.

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