Heel Pain Sound-Wave Therapy OKd

Friday, July 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — People who suffer chronic heel pain, a particular bane of athletes, may soon get a new therapy: sound waves.

Sound waves, emitted from a machine called a lithotriptor, sometimes are used to break up kidney stones, offering a noninvasive treatment.

Now that procedure is being modified to relieve chronic heel pain, also known as plantar fascitis. On Thursday, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended approval of a lower-dose lithotriptor called the OssaTron.

If the FDA follows the advice, the machine could become the first approved for a condition often frustrating to treat.

At issue is a sharp pain, aching or stiffness on the bottom of the heel that is worst upon getting out of bed each morning. It can be caused by bone spurs, but in most cases is plantar fascitis, an inflammation of the foot's connective tissue.

Physical therapy, inflammation-reducing pain relievers, cortisone shots and heel-cushioning shoe inserts are typical treatments. But they do not help everyone; severe patients sometimes have surgery.

Manufacturer HealthTronics Inc. of Marietta, Ga., studied 260 people who had suffered heel pain for six months and failed other treatments. All had anesthesia applied to the foot. Then half had the OssaTron's sound waves beamed into their heels and half had a sham treatment.

Some 47 percent of OssaTron patients were deemed successfully treated three months later, based on improvement in pain and function, vs. 30 percent of sham patients, said Dr. Celia Witten, FDA's director of general restorative devices.

Risks included rare cases of nerve irritation or numbness; two people suffered fascia tears.

Just how sound waves could relieve heel pain is not proven, Witten said. One theory is that sound waves somehow injure tissues that then ease pain by healing themselves.


On the Net: General heel pain information, http://www.acfas.org/brheelds.html