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If you have severe foot pain due to fat pad atrophy that has not responded to conservative treatments, plantar fat grafting may be able to restore your ability to maintain an active, pain-free lifestyle.

Understanding Fat Pad Atrophy

The plantar fat pads are located on the bottom of the feet to protect bones, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the area. They are designed to absorb the impact and pressure created during your normal, daily activities.

Over time and after repeated, heavy activity, these pads can weaken – causing a condition known as fat pad atrophy. Often caused by high arches, excess weight, or a history of steroid use, this condition can make it impossible to move through the world comfortably.

What are the conservative treatment options?

There are a number of conservative treatment options that can help resolve mild fat pad atrophy. They include:

  • Wearing more comfortable shoes
  • Using padded inserts in your current shoes
  • Investing in custom-made orthotics tailored to your feet

If these approaches are unsuccessful and your foot pain persists or worsens, it may be time to consider surgery.

An Overview Of The Plantar Fat Grafting Procedure

The plantar fat grafting procedure is done as an outpatient procedure using just a local anesthetic. That means you will be awake and conscious, but unable to feel any pain or discomfort in the treatment area.

Prior to surgery, Dr. Larson will assess your foot pressures and evaluate your fat pads with an ultrasound. The information gleaned during these tests will guide him in creating a custom surgical plan.

On the day of your procedure, Dr. Larson will begin by performing precise liposuction to remove fat for the surgery. This will involve creating a tiny incision in the donor site, such as the abdomen, and inserting a thin tube (called a cannula) that is attached to a suction pump. He will gently move the cannula back and forth to break up and remove unwanted fat cells. He will then purify the collected fat and insert it into your feet using two needles to restore volume to your diminished fat pads.

After the Procedure...

It is common to experience some bruising, swelling and discomfort after the procedure. These effects should be mild, so you probably won’t require any prescription medication to manage the pain. However, you will need to rest and avoid strenuous activities for several weeks as the graft settles to ensure an optimal healing process.

Once the area has fully healed, you should experience a dramatic improvement in your pain levels and quality of life. For many of our Tucson patients, they are suddenly able to walk, exercise and move around with ease – and without pain – once again. In most cases, the results of the procedure can last up to five years.

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