The difference between a podiatrist and orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon frequently causes confusion – and understandably so. If you conduct a web search for “foot surgeon” you will likely get a mixed bag of results for practices and physicians with degrees ranging from M.D. to D.P.M. Podiatrists and foot and ankle surgeons treat many of the same conditions, which can make it quite difficult to decide where to go when you have a foot or ankle problem.
For many patients, the choice comes down to personal preference. You choose a doctor that you feel comfortable with, perhaps because you’ve been to that doctor before or been referred by a family member or friend. There is no “wrong” choice in this situation, but the more complex or severe your condition, the more likely it is that an orthopedic surgeon may be better equipped to treat you, particularly if your condition requires surgery. Here’s a simple overview of the two primary differences between these types of doctors so you will have a better understanding before making a decision about your care.
The first distinction between a podiatrist and orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon has to do with training. A podiatrist attends a podiatric medical college for four years to earn a D.P.M. followed by a three-year podiatry residency. An orthopedic subspecialist like Stuart Katchis, M.D. must complete four years of medical school, five to six years of an orthopedic surgery residency followed by at least one year of subspecialty fellowship training. As a result of this education and training, an orthopedic foot & ankle specialist has a broad understanding of the entire musculoskeletal system and medical conditions that affect not only the foot and ankle, but your overall physical health.
2) Conditions Treated & Surgeries Performed
The second distinction between these types of doctors has to do with the problems they treat and surgeries they perform. It is quite typical to hear of someone going to the podiatrist for conditions including corns/calluses, plantar fasciitis (heel pain), ingrown toenails, nail fungus, Morton’s neuromas and other common foot and ankle injuries. While most podiatrists are trained in surgery, some hospitals only allow them to operate on the front of the foot. On the other hand, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon is trained to treat and perform surgical procedures for a full spectrum of problems involving the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissues of the foot, ankle and lower leg. A specialist like Stuart Katchis M.D. treats injuries and conditions including Achilles tendon ruptures, ankle and foot fractures, tarsal coalitions, flat feet and arthritis of the ankle and big toe joint (hallux rigidus).
The most important thing to remember for patients who are considering surgery for a foot or ankle condition is to ensure that your doctor has experience and significant training in performing the procedure you need and that he or she performs the surgery regularly.
To learn more about the foot and ankle conditions treated at Extend Orthopedics including bunions, flat feet and hammertoes, visit our conditions & treatments page. If you have an injury or condition that you believe would best be treated by an orthopedic surgeon, contact our office at (212) 434-4920 to schedule a consultation with Stuart Katchis, M.D. You can also make an appointment at our New York City or Scarsdale office location by filling out the form on this page.