Podiatric Surgery


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Modern podiatry is a complex field with many different areas of practice. When podiatrists first graduate their qualification and experience grants them the legal right to perform a certain treatments and procedures, this remit is referred to as a ‘scope of practice’. This can be expanded to include a broader range of different techniques and therapies if a podiatrist pursues further qualifications through CPD (Continuous Professional Development) programmes. With enough training and experience in the right CPD courses, a podiatrist can become a podiatric surgeon, a practitioner able to perform a number of surgical procedures safely, successfully, and legally.

What qualifications does a podiatrist need to become a podiatric surgeon?

As mentioned above, further training is necessary for a podiatrist to become a qualified foot surgeon. Podiatric surgery is a specialty in itself, and because of the intricacies of surgical treatment, extensive training and experience in the area is required before a podiatrist can be safely allowed to practice surgery here in the UK.

CPD courses in podiatric surgery need to have been approved by regulatory authorities if they are to be taken as a qualification towards foot surgery. These include the Health and Care Professions Council (HPC) and associations like The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP). Once a podiatric surgeon completes their qualification, they become either Fellows of the College of Podiatric Surgeons or the Surgical Faculty of the College of Podiatrists.

What do podiatric surgeons do?

Podiatric surgery involves invasive treatments of the foot and ankle. These procedures are usually day-case treatments performed under a local anaesthetic, and aim to relieve pain and restore function to the lower limb. In most cases podiatrists will endeavour to use non-invasive techniques during treatments, however there are instances when surgery is the best way to restore health and mobility.

These surgeries can achieve their ends through a number of different methods, including, for example, repairing joints and ligaments, correcting deformities, and in some cases full re-constructions where necessary.

Complicated podiatric procedures are performed by surgeons, but most podiatrists can perform minor nail surgeries and the like, again what a podiatrist can do is determined by their qualifications and experienced in the fields.

What kind of conditions does podiatric surgery treat?

There are a number of different situations in which foot surgery is an effective and reliable method of treatment, in this section we look at these surgeries and when they are used here in the UK.

If more conservative methods fail to treat bunions, then surgery is the next step. A bunion is a bony or fluid filled protrusion that develops on the large joint of the big toe, forcing the toe itself inwards towards the second toe. This condition can be painful and uncomfortable, and once a protrusion reaches a certain size it can impair function and make it hard to find fitting shoes. Surgeries can be performed to relieve the tension causing the great toe to turn inwards, or to directly address the bunion protrusion. The approach that works best will depend on the individual anatomy of the person affected, and the experience and expertise of the podiatric surgeon involved.

Hallux limitus is another condition affecting the big toe (known as the hallux), in this case however, the condition is caused by a reduction in the range of movement of the big toe. This usually causes a distinctive pain while walking, a motion that requires free movement of the big toe. This condition prevents the natural, upward movement of the toe associated with walking or running, and the consequences of this are a progressive degeneration of the joints of the toe. Surgery can effectively remedy hallux limitus and restore a fuller range of movement to the lower limb.

Arthritis is a problem amongst the elderly population of the UK, and this condition can cause severe and painful inflammation of joints across the body. There are many different forms of arthritis, each affecting the body in its own, distinctive way, and some of these can affect the arch of the foot. Once in this area, arthritis can often go unnoticed until the condition is quite advanced, and at that point severe swelling and lumps can impede the foot’s function. In some instances the lumps typical of conditions like osteoarthritis can place undue pressure on soft tissue, and these can be very effectively treated by podiatric surgeons aiming to remove these arthritic lumps.

Hammer toe is a condition affecting the smaller toes of the foot, and is also referred to as mallet or claw toe. This deformity is usually caused by a tightness or abnormality in the structure of tendons linked to affected toes. Surgical relief of the tension causing hammer toe is a quick and effective way of correcting the condition, and can restore pain free mobility after a few weeks of recovery.

Podiatrists are well known for treating common foot problems like corns, but what most people don’t know is that these corns can become serious enough to warrant more radical treatment, like surgery. Corns that aren’t effectively removed through alternative treatment methods can be addressed through surgery, for example, in cases where corns are caused by abnormally pronounced bones, a number of operations are available to correct the structure of the causative abnormality.

Modern surgeries can also effectively treat an plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of important tissues on the bottom of the foot. In most cases orthoses are enough to effectively treat this condition, however there are instances where keyhole surgeries can be a more successful option.

Enlarged nerves called neuromas can cause pain, and careful surgical procedures can permanently alleviate the discomfort this condition can cause.

There are a wealth of different conditions which are effectively treated by podiatric surgeries. Invasive procedures are only used when strictly necessary, but when applied are extremely effective, and can do wonders to solve pain problems and restore a person’s ability to move freely, provided patients follow all of their podiatrist’s instructions about how to help their foot recover.


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