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New procedure offers possible help for heel pain

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Stabbing pain in the heel is a common foot problem especially in those who must stand for hours on the job. A Kansas City woman is hoping a new procedure will give her relief.

The limp tells you Courtney Knipp suffers on her feet, and she's on them a lot as a bartender.

"Like a thumbtack shooting straight up in your heel. It's just quite, quite painful," said Knipp.

She has plantar fasciitis, heel pain from inflammation of a band of tissue. Steroid shots helped her right foot but not her left.

"Got the shot. No relief. Do stretching. No relief. Ice. No relief. Just nothing was helping," said Knipp.

She is off her feet at the University of Kansas Hospital's Indian Creek Campus. She'll have a new procedure called Tenex or percutaneous tenotomy. She's conscious but sedated. A numbing shot into the heel gets her attention.

"Ahh" is her response to the shot.

Dr. Zachary Collins then makes a quarter-inch incision in the heel. Using ultrasound, he guides a hollow ultrasonic needle into the bad tissue. The machine connected to the needle is turned on.

"It moves back and forth with high frequency and it's bathing that area in saline. It's removing diseased tendon tissue at the insertion site," said Dr. Collins.

The tissue comes out with the saline into a bag. Dr. Collins said the needle also promotes blood flow for healing, but he emphasized that healing isn't immediate.

"That healing process takes about six weeks from start to finish, so where people are a little bit critical, they want to see instant results," said the interventional radiologist.

Dr. Collins said in his half-dozen patients who've had the procedure, all but one have seen significant improvement in their heel pain.

"I'm out of options and if this works, I'm gonna be so thankful," said Knipp.

The ten-minute procedure is complete with a small bandage placed on the heel. The doctor said patients are off their feet for the first day and use a walking boot for a a week. Insurers are covering the procedure which can also be used for other conditions including tennis elbow.