When it comes to choices for medical care, the American healthcare system can simultaneously feel like it offers too many and too few. There are so many experts that can provide the treatment you need, but the reality is that your choices may be limited based on insurance or other factors.
So, when choices may come up for having foot and ankle surgery performed by a podiatric surgeon or an orthopedic surgeon, we understandably receive questions as to whom a patient should turn to.
If you’re facing such a decision, we highly recommend you not try to make it alone. We would be happy to help provide guidance as to the best route for your needs. And, if not us, we hope you have another trusted medical professional you can consult with.
What is an Orthopedic Surgeon?
An orthopedic surgeon is someone who has a focus on the entire musculoskeletal system.
Their experience tends to lie in the ways the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the body interact with each other and function as a whole. One may also specialize in a particular area of the body, such as the foot and ankle.
General education for an orthopedic surgeon is 4 years of medical school, 5-6 years of residency, and perhaps 1 year of training in a subspecialty.
What is a Podiatric Surgeon?
A podiatric surgeon is a podiatrist who has received extensive post-graduate training in the realm of foot and ankle surgery just like Houston Podiatrist Dr. Sherman Nagler at Nagler Foot Center.
Podiatric education and training focuses specifically on the foot and ankle from day one. The foot itself is one of the more complex skeletal structures of the body, with both feet containing 56 bones and 66 joints.
Podiatric training involves 4 years of podiatric school and at least 2 years of residency training. A podiatrist can become board certified in primary care/orthopedics, surgery, or both. These specialty certifications each have specific educational qualifications, as well as examinations that must be completed.
What Are the Differences?
In general, a marked difference between an orthopedic surgeon and a podiatric surgeon is the focus of their training as a whole.
While an orthopedic surgeon has a general education in the whole skeleton-muscular structure, a podiatrist’s focus is all about the foot and ankle.
You might think of it like comparing an expert on the history of the United States to an expert on just one state’s history. The national expert may still very much know the answers to your questions on a particular state but may know much more about the country as a whole.
A state expert, on the other hand, will more than likely have a deeper well of knowledge and more focused experience on that one state. If they need to answer questions about how that state has historically interacted with other states on the national level, however, they might not be as well versed.
(However, don’t forget that orthopedic surgeons can train in subspecialties such as the foot and ankle. That would be like being an expert in the country’s history but having specific knowledge of one state. Likewise, a podiatrist may have additional training in orthopedic matters.)
A podiatric surgeon will also perform surgeries of the foot that are not necessarily muscular-skeletal in nature. This includes wart removals, ingrown toenail removals, callus removals, and heel spurs. This can be in addition to reconstructive surgeries such as bunion corrections and fracture repairs.
Podiatric surgeons are also usually the preferred option for surgical needs arising from diabetic complications, too, as they tend to have more experience in that particular field.
Ultimately, if you need foot or ankle surgery that involves the bones, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues, either a podiatric surgeon or an orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in the foot and ankle can be a reliable choice, on the other hand, the ideal choice for your foot and ankle surgeon is someone with whom you have full confidence in treatment—both before, during, and after the procedure.
Please call Nagler Foot Center with any foot ailments you may have. “Houston’s Foot Doc” Sherman Nagler 713.529.1010 or visit our website at www.foothouston.com