Of the many patients we see on a daily basis, often their foot and ankle problems can be helped with conservative, non-surgical care. But there are times when surgery is necessary to relieve pain, remove a deformity or repair an injury.
There are many questions that come with foot and ankle surgery and here we address the 9 most frequently asked.
1. Should I have surgery? Surgery is considered when you have foot pain that is not improved with conservative therapy or your foot and ankle deformity is severe enough that it limits your ability to wear shoes comfortably and perform daily activities without pain.
2. How long does surgery take? On average, most foot and ankle surgery takes an hour to perform. Complex trauma or reconstructive surgery for severe deformities may take 3-4 hours.
3. Will it hurt? Pain is eliminated during your procedure with local anesthesia and in most cases mild sedation. There is post operative pain with all procedures, so you should expect some discomfort. This is lessened with techniques such as icing, elevating the foot and resting. Pain medications may also be prescribed to alleviate pain as well. Most people only require pain medication for a few days, then can transition to over-the-counter medications like Advil or Tylenol for their discomfort.
4. Am I awake for surgery? We work with anesthesiologist to ensure you are comfortable and feel no pain during your surgery. Some patients prefer only mild sedation to feel relaxed. Think "twilight sleep". Other patients and some procedures require complete relaxation for which general anesthesia is required. For all patients, we use local anesthesia given by injection to block your pain once you are sleeping comfortably.
5. Where is my surgery performed? Your surgery will usually be performed at a surgery center or outpatient hospital setting. Most foot and ankle surgery is considered outpatient, which means you go home the same day surgery is performed. Some patients or procedures require more monitoring immediately post op and may stay over night in the hospital to ensure their pain is well controlled.
6. What is the recovery time? Will I need to take off work and can I drive? Recovery times vary depending on the type of surgery performed. This will be discussed during your preoperative evaluation with your surgeon. In most cases, you will need 1-2 weeks off of work. If you are having surgery on your right foot, you cannot drive until you return to regular shoe gear and are comfortable pressing the pedals. If you drive a standard vehicle, the same holds true for right or left foot surgery.
7. Does my insurance cover surgery? Each insurance plan is different, but often surgery is covered at a percentage once a deductible is met. Your deductible amount and coverage should be discussed with your insurance company prior to surgery. At our office, we call your insurance company to verify this information, but this is always given as only an estimate of coverage. Contacting your insurance company directly can be helpful to learn about your individual coverage.
8. How many stitches will I have? This question always puts a smile on our face because somehow the more stitches you have the more complex the surgery may have been. We all know this is not true and when possible, we use a suture technique that places one long "stitch" under the skin leaving a more attractive, cosmetic scar. Most of the time, this suture is absorbable and never needs removing, reducing your post op pain and anxiety about suture removal.
9. Will surgery fix my problem? Although, there are no guarantees, surgery is often performed to reduce a deformity and relieve pain. Post operative complications can occur, especially if directions are not followed or an unexpected event happens, but these will be discussed by your surgeon prior to your surgery.
Foot surgery is quite successful when done by a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon and when the patient follows the post-operative instructions. Hopefully these answers to common questions will put your mind at ease!