Boy in cast with broken foot

When accidents happen, our automatic instinct is to head to the Emergency Room. Hit your head and you're bleeding? Time to visit the ER. Elbow hanging at a frighteningly odd angle? Go see the ER docs. Foot in agony, looking swollen and starting to change colors? Let's press pause before going toward urgent care or a hospital.

Why is that the case? If you have a foot injury, you can easily avoid the long wait times a Emergency Rooms and go to your podiatrist's office. There, you will find shorter wait times, in house x-rays and access to any other necessary diagnostic tests you may need. Best of all, you'll receive the specialized care you need to guarantee a correct diagnosis. And a correct treatment plan and optimal recovery.

Emergency Room Doctors Are Not Foot Specialists

Check out this study with findings on emergency room treatments. It will reinforce all the reasons why you should come to your Houston podiatrist if you think you've sustained a foot fracture. More specifically, it will explain why our office should be your first call if your child has a foot or ankle injury.

The study comes from Dr. Josh Abzug, director of pediatric orthopedics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He looked at record for 275 children seen in his clinic. (Of those kids, 90% who received treatment for broken bones in the emergency room were incorrectly splinted.)

Think that's not the biggest deal? Or it's something you can just fix the next day at your pediatrician's office? Think again! Many times, the elastic bandages on the splint were wound too tightly. That can cut off children's circulation, causing pain or even limb damage. Worse, for lots of these kids, the splint ended in the wrong spot for optimal healing. And that means their recovery could be extended or compromised.

So that's the bad news on fractures in general. But matters get worse when it comes to leg and ankle fractures. Why? Children whose feet were treated at the ER had their injuries immobilized at an incorrect angle. And that can cause serious--sometimes permanent--problems once the splint or cast comes off.

The Trouble with Incorrect Casting man in cast

When it comes to injuries of the lower leg, setting a fracture is critical to how it will heal. As Dr. Abzug explained, "With a broken ankle, you want to splint the foot about 90 degrees to the lower leg, so that three or four weeks down the road, when the child is ready to walk, her foot is nice and flat, instead of pointed at the wrong angle." Now, that's something foot experts know very well. But it's not exactly common knowledge.

And that, according to the doctor, is what’s behind the problem with ER splinting. He says, “I think it's purely a lack of education in some cases, or a lack of attention to detail." And, as Abzug explains. that can lead to permanent problems for your little ones.

Casting Broken Feet at Your Podiatrist's Office

I could not agree more with Dr. Abzug. Here's the cold, hard truth. ER physicians must have general knowledge about every injury. And they're really good at their jobs. But even with all that general knowledge, they may not be specialists in injuries of the foot and ankle. The opposite is true for a podiatrist.

All we do is work on toes, feet and ankles. So the odds are high that we've seen most of the common--and even many of the uncommon--foot and ankle injuries. As a result of our experience, we know how to diagnose and treat them correctly. In turn, that will ensure properly healing for a broken foot or ankle. (By the way, it's even true for a broken toe. Because you shouldn't believe the hype that there's nothing you can do for that kind of injury.)

Symptoms of a Broken Foot or Ankle

In my practice, here's what we know about lower limb injuries. With a fracture, the foot or ankle will appear bruised and swollen. It is also likely to be very painful.

Also, we know there are degrees of fractures. Some are stable, but others are displaced and may need surgical treatment. When a fracture is not displaced, it may be simply treated by immobilizing the foot, ankle, and leg to allow the bone to fully heal. But there are times where the fracture is more severe and will need to be corrected surgically. In our office, we can evaluate all those factors and come up with a proper treatment plan. And we can do it all while you sit comfortably and enjoy a cup of coffee, instead of waiting for hours at the emergency room.

But that's not all the injury care we can provide in our practice. We can also examine you to see if you have a stress fracture. (That's an injury that is not caused by a particular trauma, but rather by continuous, repetitive stress.)

This injury looks different than traumatic ones. With this type of fracture, you won't present with bruising, but rather with a moderate amount of swelling. The pain is not severe, but can often be described as a bad ache. You'll be able to walk on a stress fracture, just not comfortably.

It is important to have a stress fracture immobilized. That's the only way to allow the bone to heal, recover, and return to full strength. Once healed, we use orthotics to manage the pressure and stress on the bone which will prevent a reoccurrence of the fracture.

As a podiatrist, I know you'll need to bear weight on your injured foot as soon as the fracture has healed. So I want to make sure it heals in a way that will allow you the best chance of walking comfortably. For that reason, if you suspect you or your child has a sprained or broken foot or ankle and you want to ensure that they heal correctly, head to Dr. Andrew Schneider’s office instead of the emergency room for a full work-up, including x-rays and casting as needed.


Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics