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Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Posted by Pat D on 11/19/03 at 20:16 (138014)

Here is another horror story to add to the files. After 6 months of heel spur pain and many cortizone shots, I agreed to have the heel spur surgery three weeks ago. One week later I tripped on my crutches, slipped down just one step onto a concrete floor and broke my heel bone. A few days after, I lost balance on the crutches, fell backwards and did nasty things to my shoulder. Now I am in a hard cast for 6 weeks, then a walking cast and physical therapy for another 2 after that. What happenened--I was supposed to be up and about after 4 weeks, but now it is looking more like 4 months!

My doctor says that 'ESWT is still experimental' and my insurance company would not pay for it anyway. What other alternative but surgery?

I think if I had it to do all over again, I would have given the orthodics a try for a month or two. I just got them the week before the surgery.

Two months ago I was an active and independent 53 year old doing step aerobics and karate every day. Now I can hardly get out of a chair!

Having read some of the other horror stories, however, I see that things could be worse. At least this is temporary (I sure hope). On the plus side, I will not have to put up Christmas decorations.

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Dorothy on 11/19/03 at 20:18 (138015)

You have an amazingly upbeat attitude given all that you have been through. I hope you have a solid and steady recovery - from everything!

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Dr. Z on 11/19/03 at 20:25 (138016)

Sorry that you had to go thru this . Your doctor mis-informed you ESWT isn't experimental it is FDA approved.
I just say a patient today who has billateral EPF and is in so much pain post six months. Every tendon in her foot is damaged .
There is no excuse for a podiatrist not informing their patient that ESWT is an FDA approved procedure. and that it can avoid the pain, suffering and permanent damage . Sorry if I am not upbeat I have just heard this experimental false hood just too much.
A patient is entitled to know that ESWT is an option and if their insurance won't pay for it help the patient to afford the procedure.
There are laws that do protect patients from insuranc companies that won't pay when they have to pay.

Good luck and feel free to ask for any help from this board

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Pat D on 11/20/03 at 13:05 (138093)

This is Pat D with more on regretting heel surgery operation.

I rechecked with my insurance company (Blue Cross/Blue Shield--I am in Washington State) and they WILL cover 80% of ESWT for PF after conventional treatments have failed. I did not know about ESWT before the operation and my doctor made no mention of it. I only found out about it from a friend AFTER the operation was done. They said it IS approved for the treatment of PF. When I took the brochure that my friend sent me into my doctor and asked why we didn't consider that as a treatment he said, 'That's still experimental. Oh, it's around in some places but I can't find any good studies on whether it works or not. None of the medical journals have anything on it.'

Well, there you have it. I should have done more checking but sometimes you stupidly place your confidence in physicians, especially when they have been practicing as long as he has. I don't think I should make a point of this with my doctor. He will probably get ticked and tell me to take a hike and I still have several more months of treatment needed.

As for doing the research myself, from what I have seen on the web, I can't really determine how effective ESWT is. From the small sample of chat groups I have seen, it sounds like a lot of desperate people are trying it and some are getting a percentage of relief and some are having recurrences of pain. This is not a good sampling, however, because the people who have good results are probably not bothering to get back into the chat groups to tell about it.

During the 6 to 12 months that I have been having this PF problem there have been ups and downs. Sometimes the pain was so bad that I could hardly walk, and sometimes, for no apparent reason, it would go away for a month or two. It kind of sounds like the people who have gone through ESWT are having the same reaction (ups and downs) after having spent all that money. If I had done the ESWT, how would I even know if it had done me any good, if I had the same ups and downs that I did before?

It is too late for me, but I am hoping that the doctors who are doing this treatment will do a better job of documenting the results (good or bad), will do extensive publishing, and will make a concerted effort to educate their peers. Even if I had elected NOT to go the ESWT route (it still would have been $500-$1,000 or more out of my pocket with questionable results) I would have liked to be presented with the option so I could make the decision myself. I jumped into surgery because I 'wanted to get it over with.'

Too late for me, but not for all the folks who will be going through this in the future!

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

SteveG on 11/20/03 at 13:48 (138101)

Pat - where do you live in Washington (I live is Seattle). I know that Regence Blue Shield will not pay for ESWT as of last October. There have been numerous studies here and in Europe that support ESWT. In fact, it is FDA approved because it was supported by studies that supported it. You would know it did you good (if it did) by providing a significant reduction in your pain. Like you say, it's too bad your doctor was not more on the ball. If I were a pod, I would not consider surgery before I sent the patient for ESWT. Both of the pods I have seen here have been up on the procedure and pushed it as an alternative to surgery.

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Pat D on 11/20/03 at 16:27 (138137)


I am in Auburn. I checked with the insurance company today (11/20/03) and they said ESWT was covered for PF, and it did not depend on which state I was in. My insurance comp. card reads 'Blue Cross/Blue Shield based in Chicago (United Airlines). I'm not sure that it is the same outfit as yours.

As I said, it's too late for me anyway. I just learned a hard lesson about not doing my homework before I went for the surgery. I can't chide my doctor about not telling me about an alternative, either. You don't do that in the middle of treatment (like making a bad comment to your hairdresser in the middle of a haircut). All I can say is that I was disappointed that I did not know of an alternative treatment before I elected surgery.

Heaven forbid I should have heel spur problems with the other foot, but I would do it differently. At least I would be able to do a comparison study on surgery vs. ESWT.

Learn from my mistakes, folks! Don't be docile about your treatment. Take an active role in getting your own information!

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Rose on 11/20/03 at 21:27 (138171)

Yes, my podiatrist and surgeon both said it usually does not work and is very expensive.

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Rose on 11/20/03 at 21:31 (138175)

My doctor did tell me about the treatment, he just did not recommend it as he said it didn't have good results and my insurance did notcover it at all. I should have done more research before I had the surgery. Now, this is a HMO, so they do everything they can to avoid during surgery, so I do not believe they said that to get my 'business'.

Re: Regretting Heel Surgery Already

Sam on 11/21/03 at 22:23 (138323)

They lied, plain and simple.