Can your podiatrist do any foot surgery? I was recently asked this question by a new patient in my Houston podiatry practice. She came in with a particular foot issue, and we decided that surgery was her best treatment option.
That's when she asked for an orthopedic surgeon referral. It was for a chronic problem with her navicular bone. (Which is the same bone that Yao Ming and Tom Brady have both injured in the past.) In her mind, the orthopedist would be better qualified to address her issue. As her podiatrist, I gave her the name of a respected orthopedic surgeon. But I also gave her the name of a colleague of mine, another Podiatrist in Houston, TX.
Why send her to another podiatrist? Well, I thought my colleague would be best qualified to do her surgery. Because, while I do surgery myself, I don't like to operate on traumatic injuries. It's just not my speciality, but it is best performed by a podiatrist.
Now, here's the crazy part. Even with my recommendation, she worried about seeing a podiatrist. So I had to help her understand. Which I did, by telling her that if I or a family member needed this type of surgery, I would see a podiatrist. And I would not want anyone else operating on my foot.
Podiatrists are Trained Foot Surgeons
Wondering why podiatrists are surgeons? Here's the story: we go through extensive training. We start with four years of college. Then, a podiatrist continues on for four years of podiatric medical school. What does that mean exactly? I'll help you understand. Most podiatry schools affilate with major universities and medical centers. That was the case at Temple University, where I attended podiatric medical school.
Then, after graduation, your podiatrist enters a hospital-based residency program. Today, that residency lasts at least 3 years. And it includes training in surgery and medicine. Finally, the podiatrist has to meet extra qualifications to become board certified.
Now, remember, not all podiatrists perform every procedure. Like other doctors, some podiatrists choose to limit their practices. But it's important to remember that it's a choice. Becaue all podiatrists are qualified to treat all disorders of the foot and ankle.
I make that choiced because of the type of podiatric practice I choose to have. And one of those reasons is that I make foot surgery a last resort treatment. I don't want to operate on your feet unless that's your only path to pain relief. For that reason, I always consider non–surgical solutions first. I explore every treatment option to find the right solution for you.
Minimally Invasive Foot Therapy
Let's look at what that means with a common problem: bunions. When you come see me for a painful bunion, I'll look at the size of your bony bump. If it's small, great! I'll be positioned to offer you less invasive treatments.
To start, I'll suggest padding your bunion. This prevents bunions from rubbing against your shoes. And it's a great way to provide pain relief for small bunions.
I'll also explore ways to prevent bunion growth. That means getting to the bottom of your body's mechanics. So I can see which forces pressed on your bones, changing the direction of their growth.
If I notice an imbalance in your body, I may recommend custom orthotics. Many patients can stop bunion growth by using orthotics to relieve foor pressure. If that's the case for you, wonderful! We'll check in with each other every so often to make sure your bunions aren't growing. But you'll be pain free and ready to go, all without foot surgery.
Unfortunately, some patients wait to come in until their bunions are large. And painful. And making it difficult to walk or even put on shoes. In such cases, I may recommend bunion surgery. But I won't do so without preparing you for what's ahead.
Bunion Correction Surgery
Any surgery can cause worry, which is why I will take as much time with you as you feel you need to answer your questions. That way, you will know exactly what our plan will be. Plus, it will help you understand why surgery is your best treatment option.
But, as your podiatrist, I won't operate until I've addressed all your concerns. And I will clearly map out your postoperative recovery plan. That way, you'll know what to expect after foot surgery. And you'll understand the timeline for your return to normal activity.
Here's the thing: I'm a podiatrist, but I'm also a working father and husband. So I really understand that nobody likes surprises. That's why I do everything possible to make your surgical experience will go exactly like I said it would.
Again, I don't operate on injuries. (But I can do in-office X-rays to quickly diagnose a broken foot or toe bone.) So, if surgery is your only option, but I plan to refer you elsewhere? I'll send you to another podiatrist. Because I believe podiatrists have the most training in matters of the foot and ankle. And I'd have one of my fellow podiatrists operate on me over an orthopedic surgeon any day. Ok, after all that extra information, let's get back to my patient. The woman who inspired this post. That day, I her a choice of two excellent surgeons. And the choice is hers. My role was
to offer my opinion on those choices, suggesting what I think its best. And I'll stick to my belief that podiatrists are the best choice for foot surgeries. Every single time.
Are you facing a similar choice, wondering who should do your foot surgery? My advice is this: don't limit your options. If the fear of surgery is holding you back from scheduling an appointment, don't wait! We can often manage your condition without surgery. But that's most likely if you come in early. So contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for an immediate appointment to explore your options.