Endoscopic Decompression of the Retrocalcaneal Space
Zachary Leitze, MD; Enzo J Sella, MD; John M Aversa, MD


Background: Pain in the retrocalcaneal space can be incapacitating. Patients who do not respond to nonoperative treatment may seek a surgical solution. The first purpose of this paper was to describe and evaluate the efficacy of a minimally invasive procedure to address retrocalcaneal pain caused by retrocalcaneal bursitis, a Haglund spur, and impingement. The second purpose was to compare the endoscopic technique with a standard open technique.

Methods: Our prospective study included thirty-three heels in thirty consecutive patients with chronic pain in the retrocalcaneal space for which nonoperative treatment had failed and endoscopic decompression was performed. The mean age was forty-nine years (range, nineteen to seventy-nine years). This group was compared with a group of seventeen heels in fourteen patients with the same diagnostic criteria who were treated with an open technique. Both groups of patients were evaluated preoperatively and postoperatively with the AOFAS (American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society) Ankle-Hindfoot Scale, and the patients treated with the endoscopic procedure were also evaluated postoperatively with the University of Maryland 100-point Painful Foot Center Scoring System.

Results: In the endoscopic group, the AOFAS scores averaged 61.8 points preoperatively and 87.5 points postoperatively (p < 0.001). The endoscopic procedures yielded nineteen excellent, five good, three fair, and three poor results at an average of twenty-two months postoperatively. (Three patients were excluded from the study.) In the open-treatment group, the AOFAS scores averaged 58.1 points preoperatively and 79.3 points at an average of forty-two months postoperatively (p = 0.006). The scores after the endoscopic procedures were numerically, but not significantly (p = 0.115), better than those after the open procedures. The time to recovery was the same in the two groups. The endoscopic procedures were performed more quickly than the open procedures (forty-four compared with fifty-six minutes) and were associated with fewer complications (a 3% compared with a 12% rate of infection, a 10% compared with an 18% rate of altered sensation, and a 7% compared with an 18% rate of scar tenderness).

Conclusions: Endoscopic decompression is a feasible and efficient procedure for the treatment of retrocalcaneal disorders. It produces final results equal to or better than those of an open technique, with a similar recovery time, fewer complications, and a better cosmetic appearance.

Level of Evidence: Therapeutic study, Level II-1 (prospective cohort study). See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.


  • Investigation performed at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

  • The authors did not receive grants or outside funding in support of their research or preparation of this manuscript. They did not receive payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors are affiliated or associated.

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