Is There Too Much Surgery in Podiatry?

By Dr. Gary Prant DPM

Arbor Foot Health Center

I’ve been to a lot of Podiatry conferences in my 30 years of practice.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through presentations by the leading lights of our profession when they discuss a particular foot problem and gloss over the nonsurgical treatments in about 30 seconds before starting their discussion of the surgical “solution” to the problem.

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You have to understand that the big “honchos’ of my profession are primarily surgeons.  Surgery is the highest paid service we perform and those doctors doing the most surgery are usually the most prestigious, influential, and wealthy.

Most surgical studies show that somewhere between 70 and 90% of patients are pleased with the results and would have the surgery again. To me those studies are fundamentally flawed.  Anyone who goes through the pain, and expense, and prolonged recovery, of foot surgery is not going to say it was not worthwhile.  This seems like basic human nature — that is never accounted for in the studies.

Just look at the pride we have in our children and their accomplishments.  All that effort we put into raising our children to be worthwhile adults makes it difficult for us to judge them objectively. Anything we are invested in – whether it be children or surgery – we tend to judge favorably.

As a patient it is incumbent on you to ask the question:  “What are the alternatives to surgery?” “What are my chances of solving this problem non-surgically?” and “What are the risks associated with the surgery, not having the surgery, or waiting to have the surgery?” As surgeons we need to ask whether everything possible has been done to treat the problem before considering surgery.

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