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2022_Drake et al - PHP medical imaging SR_J Foot Ankle Res.pdf (2.76 MB)

Medical imaging for plantar heel pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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posted on 2022-03-08, 03:05 authored by C Drake, Glen WhittakerGlen Whittaker, Michelle KaminskiMichelle Kaminski, J Chen, AM Keenan, MS Rathleff, P Robinson, Karl LandorfKarl Landorf
Background: Medical imaging can be used to assist with the diagnosis of plantar heel pain. The aim of this study was to synthesise medical imaging features associated with plantar heel pain. Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis conducted searches in MEDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, Embase and the Cochrane Library from inception to 12th February 2021. Peer-reviewed articles of cross-sectional observational studies written in English that compared medical imaging findings in adult participants with plantar heel pain to control participants without plantar heel pain were included. Study quality and risk of bias was assessed using the National Institutes of Health quality assessment tool for observational cohort and cross-sectional studies. Sensitivity analyses were conducted where appropriate to account for studies that used unblinded assessors. Results: Forty-two studies (2928 participants) were identified and included in analyses. Only 21% of studies were rated ‘good’ on quality assessment. Imaging features associated with plantar heel pain included a thickened plantar fascia (on ultrasound and MRI), abnormalities of the plantar fascia (on ultrasound and MRI), abnormalities of adjacent tissue such as a thickened loaded plantar heel fat pad (on ultrasound), and a plantar calcaneal spur (on x-ray). In addition, there is some evidence from more than one study that there is increased hyperaemia within the fascia (on power Doppler ultrasound) and abnormalities of bone in the calcaneus (increased uptake on technetium-99 m bone scan and bone marrow oedema on MRI). Conclusions: People with plantar heel pain are more likely to have a thickened plantar fascia, abnormal plantar fascia tissue, a thicker loaded plantar heel fat pad, and a plantar calcaneal spur. In addition, there is some evidence of hyperaemia within the plantar fascia and abnormalities of the calcaneus. Whilst these medical imaging features may aid with diagnosis, additional high-quality studies investigating medical imaging findings for some of these imaging features would be worthwhile to improve the precision of these findings and determine their clinical relevance.


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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research



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BioMed Central Ltd, part of Springer Nature



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© The Author(s). 2021 This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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