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Fat Grafting Reduces Foot Pain

January 30th, 2019

By the age of 60, almost one in three Americans experience fat pad atrophy of the foot—a breakdown of the shock-absorbing pad in the ball of the foot that can lead to foot pain, ulcers, and callus formation. A new study from University of Pittsburgh researcher Jeffrey Gusenoff, MD, shows that fat grafting, a minimally-invasive procedure in which a person’s own fat is removed from one area and injected into another, can provide long-lasting improvements in foot pain and function for patients suffering from this condition. 

Gusenoff and his team divided 31 participants with fat pad atrophy into two groups over a span of two years to find out if fat grafting to the ball of the foot could reduce foot pressure while walking, increase the soft tissue thickness of the foot pad, and ultimately reduce pain. All participants in the research study received fat grafting surgery, with the first group undergoing the procedure immediately with two years of follow-up and the second group managing the condition conservatively with padding and inserts for one year and then undergoing the procedure with one year of follow-up. Study results showed that fat grafting provides long-lasting improvements in pain and function, and that undergoing the procedure sooner prevents worsening symptoms that would occur as a result of more conservative management.

“We typically see this condition in patients with specific foot structures, a history of long-term aggressive activity, and those who have experienced surgery, foot trauma, or multiple forefoot steroid injections,” said Dr. Gusenoff. “We are happy that we can finally bring relief to people who have been living with pain and a decreased quality of life…the positive responses we’ve heard from our patients have made all of our research worthwhile.”

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