We all have regrets, but choosing the right foot surgeon shouldn’t be one of them. Your feet are your foundation upon which the entire weight of your body depends to thrive and survive. Alas, if you live long enough, chances are your feet will fail you at some point in time but don’t dismay. When addressing a particular foot problem that requires non invasive foot procedures most experienced podiatrists will help to alleviate or resolve the issue at foot. However, when considering foot surgery to relieve aches and pains from troublesome corns, bunions and hammertoes, it is very important to select your foot surgeon wisely. Here are some go-to guidelines.
1- How Much Experience Does Your Foot Surgeon Have with Forefoot Surgery?
There are two significant parts to your feet: The forefoot is the top part of the foot which contains all of the bones in the toes and the long bones, called metatarsal, connected to them. Intuitively, one might think the best option is an Orthopedic Surgeon because they’re medical doctors specializing in bone surgery, right? Wrong. Although there are many skilled orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons, many of them focus on trauma and hind-foot foot procedures, which is ideal if you accidentally break your foot, or require an elective hind-foot procedure. Hind-foot procedures involve larger bones and have a great margin for error. The forefoot, conversely, is composed of some of the smallest bones of the body. Surgical correction of the this part of the foot has a much smaller margin of error, which means the surgeon of choice must be highly skilled and proficient in this particular area of the foot.
If you must choose a Podiatrist or an Orthopedic Doctor, ask them a simple question: How many non-traumatic related and forefoot procedures do they perform on a weekly basis? If the answer is less than one case per week, you should put your precious feet in the care of someone else. Alternatively, you may want to see a ``Doctor of Podiatric Medicine’’ who is completely dedicated to the foot. All Podiatrists must have surgical training in order to practice podiatry, however, surgical training varies, therefore surgical outcome will too. Many Podiatrists, well trained or not, simply don’t perform a substantial amount of surgical procedures when they go into private practice. The old adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” applies for even the most rigorously trained foot surgeon. So when selecting a podiatrist, again, ask the simple question: How many surgeries do they perform weekly? Get specific because many foot surgical procedures may not be bone related at all and are merely focused on soft tissue (in other words, issues that are not bony). The bottom line: ask all doctors that you’re considering to perform your foot surgery, specifically, how many bunion and hammertoe repairs they perform weekly. If you find someone who is executing multiple procedures a few times per week, the likelihood is that this foot doctor is well versed and can complete the procedure with ease and an acceptable outcome.
2- Choose Your Own Referral Source
Most patients choose a specialty doctor simply because they were referred by their general practitioner. This might not be the smartest mode for picking the best podiatrist to operate on your pained foot. For one thing, it is common practice for doctors to refer their friends and colleagues, which may not always be in your best interest. A better idea would be to probe your trusted friends and colleagues first: Do they know of anyone whom has had a similar foot surgical procedure? If you score, then take it upon yourself to talk directly to the person in question. This way, you can get a more reliable doctor referral, an unbiased opinion of their experience and find out what the recovery process is like. Bunion and hammertoe bonus: if geography allows, why not meet the person so you can check out the ultimate results for yourself and be on the lookout for any unsightly scars.
With trusted referrals in hand, do some online research. First and foremost, pay attention to the doctor’s reviews. If most of the reviews are positive, chances are you will have the same experience. However, when reading reviews take note of who is leaving a response. Real reviews often are detailed with specifics and contain a picture of the person leaving the review, or pictures they are reviewing if the option is available.
While doing your online research, look at the before and after photos on the doctor’s website: the more photos, the better. If there is only one or two photos this is a red flag; either these are not the foot doctor’s actual work or the foot doctor doesn’t perform enough surgeries. Also, compare before and after pictures by keeping an eye open for impersonators! Results from the Fix Your Feet website have pop up on other sites. Additionally, take a good look at the images. Many photos are digitally enhanced to appear like a cosmetic result, when in fact the unsightly scar was photoshopped.
3- Avoid Stepping into a Foot Factory
Don’t be fooled by the number of feet you see in a waiting room. A crowded doctor’s office may symbolize the practice is thriving, but that doesn’t mean the doctor is good--or the right one for your foot predicament. It could simply be an indicator that the practice in question only thrives on volume like a factory. More importantly, having a greater volume of patients at one time could mean shorter doctor-patient engagement. This can lead to patients being short changed on pertinent information on the procedure and their recovery. When considering any type of surgery, you should be well informed about what is going happen to your body as well as the necessary steps to take for proper healing, so that you may make an informed decision.
Many patients refrain from asking too many questions when faced with a busy doctor’s office. Remember, your foot surgeon and the attending staff should be receptive to all of your questions and concerns no matter how long it takes. During your consultation, if you don’t thoroughly understand exactly what is going to happen, ask more questions until you do. If you feel rushed or hurried, or that you didn’t get the opportunity to ask a certain question, continue shopping for the right foot surgeon. Keep your focus on this foot fact: your podiatrist doesn’t get to choose you as a patient, rather you decide if the surgeon is the best podiatrist for you, because the restoration of your foot will be the best priority for standing on your own two feet with ease once again.