A Simple Guide to Foot and Ankle Reconstructive Surgery
The term “surgery” can already cause a pang of anxiety in many people, and we completely understand why. Surgery can be a life-changing event—although the goal is to change life for the better—and is something to always approach seriously.
Of course, adding words doesn’t always make things less stressful. If “reconstructive surgery” is being used in regard to potential options for treatment, the term may feel a little vague.
What does “reconstructive” mean? What makes that different from a “normal” surgery? Are they going to just blow something up and start over from scratch??
As specialists in reconstructive surgery for the foot and ankle, we’re happy to provide some clarity on reconstructive surgery—why it may be recommended, and how it can improve a patient’s life.
What is Reconstructive Surgery?
Imagine that your body is a house. (It doesn’t matter what type, so go for a mansion if you’d like.)
Typically, when something goes wrong in the house—such as a window breaking, or the floorboards cracking—you call a repair person to come and fix it. This is a lot like what many would consider a “traditional” form of surgery. Something that has become “broken” in some way is being restored to its original state.
Now what if you realize that your foundation was never laid properly, or laid upon a faulty area? In this case, the problem might cause your house to shift, which might result in warped windows and floorboards over time, but the underlying cause has always existed.
In this second case, you may call in a contractor to repair the foundation. They are reshaping or reconstructing an existing state in such a way that it solves or prevents problems being caused by it.
This is how reconstructive surgery works in the foot and ankle.
Many people are born with an abnormal structure in the foot or ankle, often due to genetics. Flat feet or weaknesses in the big toe joint that can cause bunions are common examples, but there are many more.
Such conditions can cause pain and other problems right away, or it may take some time for a problem to develop and become progressively worse. The key is that the initial abnormality can be addressed to eliminate the problem entirely or, at the very least, significantly improve the comfort and mobility of a patient.
Do All Abnormalities Require Reconstructive Surgery?
To put it simply: no.
While an abnormality of some type may exist, reconstructive surgery is typically not considered for it if:
- The abnormality is not causing any type of pain or discomfort. Many people have flat feet, for example, but it does not cause them any trouble.
- Problems caused by the abnormality can be addressed well with more conservative methods. So even if flat feet are causing pain for someone, surgery should not be a consideration if another treatment (such as custom orthotics) provides substantial relief.
We do not bring surgery of any type to the table unless other methods of treatment have not provided relief, or it is plainly clear after evaluation that conservative methods would not help.
What Can Be Expected from and After Surgery?
There are multiple different procedures within the realm of reconstructive surgery. The procedures that will be considered will largely depend on the type of structural issues we are dealing with, the individual needs and lifestyle of the patient, and the patient’s medical history.
Some procedures may involve cutting or reshaping bones, while others may involve cutting or releasing soft tissues. A full incision may be required to conduct the procedure, or we may be able to use arthroscopy for a more minimally invasive procedure. Our goal is always to cause as little extra trauma as possible, but at least a little is always necessary as part of surgery.
Although specifics will vary, you can expect a period of rest and icing after the surgery to help reduce swelling and begin recovery. In some cases, a cast or boot—and sometimes crutches—may be prescribed to immobilize the area and prevent aggravation.
The use of orthopedic or surgical shoes may be recommended further into recovery, as well as a regimen of stretches and/or exercises to strengthen and rehabilitate the area.
Rest assured that we will fully discuss all the factors surrounding a procedure with you, including preparations you should make before and after the surgery. We want you to be able to make a sound choice about your care with full confidence and have as few things to worry about as possible as you recover.
Finding the Best Solution for Your Foot or Ankle Pain
Reconstructive surgery is not something to fear. In many cases, it won’t even be the only option!
If there is anything you should be concerned about, it is letting your discomfort persist without taking action to address it. Allowing chronic problems to continue only tends to make them become worse over time, making treatment more complicated and perhaps even leading to permanent problems.
If you need help for a foot or ankle issue, we are more than happy to hear from you. Schedule an appointment with our Ladera Ranch office by calling (949) 364-9255 (WALK). If you prefer to contact us electronically, please feel free to fill out our online contact form; a member of our office will reach out to you during office hours.