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Clinical Utility of Ultrasound Measurements of Plantar Fascia Width and Cross-Sectional Area

A Novel Technique

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  • 1 Clinical Exercise Science, Faculty of Human Science, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.
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Background:

We sought to develop a standardized protocol for ultrasound (US) measurements of plantar fascia (PF) width and cross-sectional area (CSA), which may serve as additional outcome variables during US examinations of both healthy asymptomatic PF and in plantar fasciopathy and determine its interrater and intrarater reliability.

Methods:

Ten healthy individuals (20 feet) were enrolled. Participants were assessed twice by two raters each to determine intrarater and interrater reliability. For each foot, three transverse scans of the central bundle of the PF were taken at its insertion at the medial calcaneal tubercle, identified in real time on the plantar surface of the foot, using a fine wire technique. Reliability was determined using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), standard errors of measurement (SEM), and limits of agreement (LOA) expressed as percentages of the mean. Reliability of PF width and CSA measurements was determined using PF width and CSA measurements from one sonogram measured once and the mean of three measurements from three sonograms each measured once.

Results:

Ultrasound measurements of PF width and CSA showed a mean of 18.6 ± 2.0 mm and 69.20 ± 13.6 mm2 respectively. Intra-reliability within both raters showed an ICC > 0.84 for width and ICC > 0.92 for CSA as well as a SEM% and LOA% < 10% for both width and CSA. Inter-rater reliability showed an ICC of 0.82 for width and 0.87 for CSA as well as a SEM% and LOA% < 10% for width and a SEM% < 10% and LOA% < 20% for CSA. Relative and absolute reliability within and between raters were higher when using the mean of three sonographs compared to one sonograph.

Conclusions:

Using this novel technique, PF CSA and width may be determined reliably using measurements from one sonogram or the mean of three sonograms. Measurement of PF CSA and width in addition to already established thickness and echogenicity measurements provides additional information on structural properties of the PF for clinicians and researchers in healthy and pathologic PF.

Corresponding author: Adebisi Bisi-Balogun, PhD, Clinical Exercise Science, Faculty of Human Science, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Brandenburg, 14469, Germany. E-mail: bisibalo@uni-potsdam.de