Many patients struggle with the choice of the correct doctor to treat their foot pains. Often the choice varies between an Orthopedic surgeon and a Podiatrist. Clarification of the difference between these two specialties will be outlined in this blog post:
Both Podiatrists and foot and ankle specialized Orthopedic Surgeons are well trained. Podiatrists study medicine as it relates to feet, specifically, during their entire course of study, and therefore they do have more years of study that is focused specifically on feet. The basic Podiatric education lasts for four years after college. Following this basic and focused training, a Podiatrist will undergo residency training which may last up to three years. They are doctors, with many years of study and experience in providing foot care.
To become an Orthopedic surgeon, you must first become an MD, then go into Orthopedic medicine, specializing in foot and ankle surgery—this specialization occurs in the form of a fellowship which usually lasts for one year. So the Orthopedic surgeon would have the better general medical background, but less time spent learning specifically about feet.
Of course, an Orthopedic surgeon specialized in foot/ankle IS primarily a surgeon, so naturally his approach to foot care usually focuses on surgery. An Orthopedic surgeon will apply general orthopedic principles to the foot which is a very unique structure and not like other parts of the body.
A Podiatrist is inclined to look at ALL the possible treatments for a patient’s condition and to recommend surgery only if other approaches have not been successful. In fact, not all Podiatrists do internships in foot surgery; some do not do surgery at all. But there are other Podiatrists who specialize in surgery. All surgeon Podiatrists must be certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery to perform surgery in any hospital or participate in insurance plans. This board has very strict requirements for appointment, and recertification is required every ten years. These Podiatrists do several surgeries per week and are very expert and well-practiced in foot surgery.
At this time, the residency requirement for Podiatrists varies from state to state. The American Podiatric Medical Association has pledged that by the year 2015 all Podiatrists will have completed a three year residency program before they begin practice.
I am board certified in foot surgery by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and have fellowships in the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons, American Academy of Practice Management and the American Professional Wound Care Association.
Many of the surgical procedures and techniques which are used in the operating room on a daily basis have been discovered by Orthopedists and refined by Podiatrists. We, as Podiatrists, have realized that this unique structure of the foot requires unique and special treatment/procedures which aren’t necessarily used in the rest of the body. This body appendage, which consists of 28 bones, must carry our bodies throughout our lives, often without required maintenance. It has been estimated that our feet will travel over 150,000 miles in a lifetime.
Give your feet the attention that is necessary, since one pair must last a lifetime—see your Podiatrist.