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A podiatric surgeon is a surgical specialist who performs surgery on the feet, ankles, and sometimes the lower leg. Podiatric surgeons are also known as “foot and ankle surgeons” in a reference to their area of specialty. In order to become a podiatric surgeon, a doctor must attend podiatric medical school, followed by a residency in podiatric surgery, and the surgeon may also opt to take a fellowship to learn advanced surgical techniques. While some of the procedures performed by a podiatric surgeon can be accomplished by other surgeons, podiatric surgeons have special training and skills which greatly improve patient outcomes.
Podiatrists in general focus on disorders of the lower extremities, including damage caused by chronic conditions such as diabetes, trauma to the feet and ankles, and congenital malformations. A podiatric surgeon may opt to specialize on areas of interest such as sports injuries, damage to the lower legs caused by poor circulation, or pediatric medical issues. As with many medical specialties, podiatry is paired with a surgical specialty, podiatric surgery, to ensure that patients can get high quality surgical care from someone who is trained both as a surgeon and as a podiatrist.
Podiatric surgeons can work in hospital environments as well as clinics. They perform repairs, reconstructions, and corrections on the feet and ankles, dealing with everything from severe bunions to badly broken feet which require surgery for stabilization. As with other surgical professionals, podiatric surgeons may have a variety of approaches to surgical challenges, and they utilize many tools to evaluate patients before surgery, including physical examinations, medical imaging studies to visualize the inside of the foot and ankle, and patient interviews to discuss surgical options and outcomes.
In addition to working in the operating room, a podiatric surgeon can also be part of the care team which helps a patient manage an ongoing condition. After surgery, for example, the surgeon may recommend that the patient be fitted for specialized supportive shoes to promote healing, or the surgeon may work with another care provider to help a patient manage an ongoing condition which led to the need for podiatric surgery. Podiatrists can also identify the early signs of conditions which may involve the feet and lower legs, and catch such conditions before they develop into major problems.
Many podiatric surgeons pursue board certification from a professional organization. Board certification protects patients by holding medical professionals to a certain standard and enforcing that standard, and it also improves the standard of medical care and practice. Board certifying organizations typically hold continuing education classes, sponsor conferences, and publish trade journals which are designed to keep their members up to date on news in the field and matters of general interest to the medical community.
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