Often a last resort unless there is a pressing medical emergency, foot surgery is usually recommended to restore functioning of some part of the foot or ankle or correct a foot deformity or source of persistent pain. Surgical treatments can be either invasive, referring to traditional open surgery procedures, or minimally invasive. Here’s what you need to know about both approaches to treating foot problems.
Open ankle fusion surgery is a common invasive treatment to provide stability to bones and joints damaged by severe osteoarthritis. Since the joint will need to be opened, a more invasive procedure makes sense. Surfaces of the ankle joint will also need to be removed to allow the tibia (shinbone) to fuse together with the talus (large ankle bone). Such procedures are performed with an incision that’s large enough to allow the surgeon direct access to the affected area of the foot or ankle.
Minimally Invasive Treatments
Arthroscopic foot and ankle surgeries are common minimally invasive treatments that involve the use of special instruments and smaller incisions. A small fiber-optic camera (arthroscope) allows the surgeon to view inside of the affected area of the foot or ankle on a monitor. It’s technology like this that often allows podiatrists to perform complex procedures with great accuracy while minimizing trauma to the foot or ankle as much as possible. Generally, minimally invasive foot treatments also mean:
- Faster recoveries
- Fewer complications
- Decreased scarring
Which Is Best for You?
There is no one approach to foot surgery that is right for everyone. While most people would prefer a less invasive treatment, that’s not always possible due to the extent of the problem or the location of the affected bone or joint. A minimally invasive treatment often makes sense for common foot procedures performed on healthy individuals, as long as the problem area is easily accessible.
Making Diagnosis Easier
Foot surgery is rarely exploratory unless a clear source of foot pain cannot be found from image tests such as CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs. The technology used for minimally invasive procedures can also be used as a diagnostic tool to provide a closer look inside of a foot or ankle without the need for traditional open techniques.
Not everyone is an ideal candidate for minimally invasive treatments. A podiatrist will determine the source of your discomfort or the extent of your deformity and consider factors such as your overall health when making recommendations. Some common foot surgeries, even those performed as a traditional invasive or open procedure, involve the use of techniques that are less invasive than what was done in the past.