Whereas our hope is always to treat a foot or ankle issue with conservative care, foot and ankle surgeries sometimes become necessary procedures to resolve certain conditions or deformities caused by injury, genetics, or biological changes.
Our physicians can identify when an operation is the best possible course of treatment. If this is his recommendation, we will discuss your options with you and answer any questions you may have so you can make an informed decision.
While deciding if surgery is right for you, something you should keep in mind is that Dr. McSpadden and Dr. Sharkey have been able to perform many successful procedures for patients – and they can do the same for you!
Conditions That May Require Surgery
There are a variety of conditions that are more likely to necessitate surgery than others. This is not a comprehensive list, but examples of issues that can benefit from surgery include: arthritis, bunions, hammertoes, compound fractures, cartilage damage, bones spurs, and posterior ankle pain.
- Arthritis. When a patient’s arthritis does not respond to nonsurgical procedures, especially in severe cases, the bones of painful joints can be fused together. This type of surgery has a high success rate and only a small percentage of patients develop complications.
- Bunions and hammertoes. Conditions like bunions and hammertoe are progressive. This means they worsen over time (when left untreated), but it also means they cannot be reversed without surgical intervention. We can create a treatment plan based on conservative care. This might relieve symptoms and halt progression of the condition, but severe cases may need surgery.
- Trauma. In the event of severe trauma—such as when a fracture occurs in the ankle—broken bones can decrease the level of stability in the foot or ankle and need to be repaired. Over the past 30 to 40 years there has been an increase in the number of surgeries needed for this reason due to greater activity levels in an aging population. Exercise is important for overall health (especially as we grow older), but it is important to take measures to reduce foot and ankle injury risk.
When surgery is needed, however, you can take comfort in the fact that our experts have been able to help numerous patients just like you receive the care they need.
Identifying if Surgery is Necessary
When deciding whether to recommend surgery, we will likely use certain diagnostic tools, including x-rays and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans. Beyond diagnostic tests, some important considerations include the level of pain the condition is causing you, how it is affecting your foot’s functionality, and your overall health.
In the instance of a compound fracture in a foot or ankle, surgery becomes an obvious necessity. In part, there are high odds of infection—caused by breakage in the skin—and immediate operation is needed to prevent contamination. But there is also an urgent need to stabilize the fracture as quickly as possible (for optimal healing).
With regards to ankle surgery, an important factor in our physicians' decision whether to recommend operating is the stability of your ankle joint. If the you have an existing condition that is causing instability in the joint, then surgery will likely be recommended. In a situation involving this valuable joint, your mobility is a primary concern – and trying to save or re-establish it is paramount.
Types of Surgical Procedures
There is an array of surgical procedures we can use to fix problems. Depending on the nature of your specific circumstances, you may benefit from bone fusion, joint replacement, tendon repair or transfer, nerve decompression, tumor removal, osteotomy (cutting bone tissue in a precise manner), or bone spur excision.
Arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive surgery that utilizes a fiber optic camera that allows your surgeon to see what is happening inside the body on an external monitor. The advantage to this kind of procedure is that only small incisions are required. This decreases or even eliminates most of the difficulties (potential infection and patient pain) encountered with large cuts. Additionally, minimally-invasive procedures like this also typically have shorter recovery times, require less anesthesia, and leave less scar tissue.
ORIF (open reduction and internal fixation) is more invasive than arthroscopy, but can be required to set broken bones back into place. This is done in a traditional procedure, where an incision is made to see the entire fractured bone. The fragments are placed back into position and held there with metal plates, pins, and/or screws.
Recovering from Foot or Ankle Surgery
The general recovery process begins with an immobilization of the operated area. Once the body has repaired the soft tissue, a cast or removable boot will be used to help stabilize the region. Gradually, bodyweight can be placed upon the repaired foot and ankle. Normal activities can resume anywhere from within a couple of months up until one year removed from the operation.
Naturally, you can expect to receive specific post-operative instructions following your procedure. For optimal healing, it is essential these instructions are followed. Many complications and issues following surgery are the result of instructions not being heeded.
For more information on surgeries performed by our doctors, to learn about North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute, or to request an appointment with either of our Cedar Park or Round Rock offices, simply fill out the online form found on our website or give us a call at (512) 593-2949.