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HealthWatch: New Treatment For Flat Feet

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Katherine Rufli (credit: CBS 2)

Katherine Rufli (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Flat feet or fallen arches is an extremely common condition. As many as one in four Americans has the condition. Dr. Max Gomez reports on a new minimally-invasive surgical procedure to treat the condition.

While most folks don’t think of it as a serious problem, they can lead to knee pain, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis among other things.

In fact, flat feet used to be enough to get you out of the army.

Normally you wouldn’t think a 13-year-old would have much of a problem with her feet, certainly not something that might call for surgery, but Katherine Rufli had a problem that was giving her a lot of trouble.

“I didn’t have an arch in my foot and sometmes it would hurt my foot and I’d have trouble running and my feet would go inward and it was annoying and it didn’t look good or anything,” she said.

An x-ray of one of Katherine’s feet reveals not only not much of an arch, but also how it led to an even bigger problem of an inward turning of her ankles, called overpronation.

“You end up getting arthritis not just in the foot and in all of the joints of the foot but also arthritis of the ankle, the knee, the hip, the back, people end up with tremendous pain and disabilities because they have a lot of difficulty walking,” said Dr. Seema Ramcharitar-Amante.

Now that doesn’t happen to everyone with flat feet, and orthotics or arch supports can ease the problem for many folks, but when you have this sort of serious over pronation and painful flat feet, chances are you’re going to develop long term problems.

Now there’s a minimally invasive surgical procedure that can help. “There’s a natural hole between that ankle bone and the heel bone that if you can restore that space, you can stop that ankle bone from falling down and bringing with it all those bones and prevent that hyper-mobility,” Amante said.

The insert would go in the bones of the ankle, inserted through a tiny incision on the side of the foot.

After surgery, Katherine’s arch was restored. She had it done on both feet. “They don’t hurt anymore. I can do more sports now and I dont like trip over my feet anymore.”

Dr. Ramcharitar-Amante said the ideal candidate for this procedure is actually a young person who has a severe flat foot but still has a flexible foot, because the longer a person goes with an overpronated foot, the more likely they are to develop arthritis that eventually can fuse or severely limit the ankle’s mobility.

There are different sizes for the insert and it can be easily removed if for some reason there’s a complication.

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