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What is a Foot and Ankle Surgeon?


Foot and Ankle surgeons are podiatric physicians who specialize in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of a variety of conditions that affect people of every age. Podiatric medicine deals with bones, soft tissues, and function of the foot and ankle, as well as how podiatric conditions may relate to other parts of the body. Foot and ankle surgeons provide a wide range of care, from nonsurgical methods to correct common podiatric problems to state-of-the-art corrective and reconstructive surgical techniques.

What education has a foot and ankle surgeon received?

After completing undergraduate education, the foot and ankle surgeon completes the four-year curriculum at an accredited podiatric medical school, graduating with the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). Once the foot and ankle surgeon graduates from podiatric medical school, they enter a postgraduate residency in podiatric medicine and surgery approved by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education. These residencies are similar to, and are often integrated with, residencies for MDs (Medical Doctor) and DOs, (Osteopathic Physician) and provide training in general medicine, general surgery and surgical specialties. The critical difference is the higher volume of cases and time focused on the foot and ankle in residency programs for podiatric surgeons. Currently, the majority of podiatric residency programs are three years in length. Upon completing their residencies, foot and ankle surgeons may receive additional training in specific areas of foot and ankle surgery through fellowships.

Why Choose a Foot and Ankle Surgeon?

Intensive, focused training and in-depth experience are what set apart the foot and ankle surgeon from other physicians. During their education and training, foot and ankle surgeons devote more time to a wide variety of foot and ankle procedures than other surgeons do. Because of this critical difference, foot and ankle procedures are the most appropriate specialists to promptly diagnose and treat various foot and ankle conditions.

Certification by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS) ensures that the foot and ankle surgeon has completed appropriate training, successfully performed a diverse range of foot and ankle procedures with good surgical skills and judgement and passed rigorous oral and written exams.

Members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), a medical specialty society devoted to advancing foot and ankle health are board certified or in the process of becoming board certified by the ABFAS. The 7,200 members have dedicated themselves to continuing their training and excelling in the field of foot and ankle surgery for the benefit of the patients they serve.

When Should You See a Foot and Ankle Surgeon?

Most people have a foot or ankle problem at one time or another. So, how do you know when to see a foot and ankle surgeon?

Sometimes it’s obvious that you need to seek help, but at other times it’s less clear. In reality, many symptoms, even those you can tolerate, may require professional attention to keep the underlying condition from worsening.

Some reasons patients see a foot and ankle surgeon include:

  • An injury (a sprain, broken bone, etc.)
  • Swelling in your foot or ankle
  • A medical condition (diabetes, poor circulation, etc.) that can affect the feet
  • Impaired ability to function in certain activities
  • Heel pain in the morning
  • Any painful condition of the foot, ankle or lower leg
  • Discomfort after standing for awhile
  • Changes in the appearance of your foot or ankle
  • An abnormal growth or deformation

Foot and ankle surgeons treat all symptoms and conditions affecting the foot and ankle, such as bunions, heel pain (plantar fasciitis), flatfoot, foot or ankle arthritis, sports injuries, tendon disorders fractures (broken bones), diabetes complications, ingrown toenails, neuromas, dermatological conditions, tingly feet, hammertoes, and much more.

What can you expect from having foot and ankle surgery?

The purpose of your operation is to improve the function of your foot and ankle and the quality of your life. In some cases, two or more bones may be joined together by screws or plates. The purpose of this is to help the bone grow together and form a fusion. At first, you will not be able to put weight on that foot. By the end of the second month your foot should be strong enough TO begin limited weight bearing. Depending on the surgery, at three months, you may be able to walk short distances. The swelling on the surgical foot, and the range of motion of the surrounding joints should gradually improve over the first 6 months and you should be noticeably better than before the operation.

Improvement will even occur up to one year after surgery. However, different people vary in their recovery time, so you should not be too concerned about a delay in your recovery as long as things are improving. Additionally, some procedures take a year or more for recovery. Unfortunately for some people, some complications do occur for some people, complications after surgery occur in 5 to 10% of cases on average. If your procedure has a high risk of complications, your surgeon will inform you of this, this information will advise you of any potential risks and you can make an educated decision as to whether or not to go with the surgery.