Foot and ankle surgery is almost never the “first choice.”
At Comprehensive Foot Centers, our team of specialists works hard to give you the highest quality foot care possible, as simply as possible. If we can treat and manage your pain effectively using conservative measures, we will.
However, when the basic structure of your foot has been severely compromised, reconstructive surgery may be the only real solution. Until the alignment issues are fixed, pain and injury will continue or keep returning.
What Is the Goal of Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Surgery?
The main goal in any reconstructive surgical procedure is to restore a deformed, malformed, or mechanically compromised foot structure or joint so that it looks and operates as normally as possible.
When your feet aren’t working properly or causing you pain, you aren’t able to enjoy the things you used to love—or sometimes even accomplish basic tasks—without pain. So, in the broadest sense, the big-picture goal of reconstructive surgery is to allow you to live your fullest and best life.
What Kinds of Conditions Are Treated with Reconstructive Surgery?
Although this is an incomplete list, reconstructive surgery is frequently recommended for the following conditions:
- Progressive foot deformities. Fundamental flaws in the structure of your feet and ankles—combined with constant wear and tear—can slowly push bones and joints out of position. This causes pain and fatigue, reduces foot function, and may trigger additional complications such as corns, calluses, and wounds. Examples include bunions, hammertoes, flat feet, and diabetic foot collapse (Charcot foot).
- Old trauma or surgeries that need to be repaired. Sometimes, old injuries don’t fully heal properly. For example, this is often the case with ankle sprains. Many people don’t seek appropriate treatment or rehab the injury properly, and over time the joint becomes weak, unstable, or painful. At this stage, reconstructive surgery to repair the ligaments, or even replace the joint, may become necessary.
- Long-term arthritis. When the pain and mobility problems associated with arthritis become particularly severe, and conservative management is no longer effective, it may become necessary to remodel, replace, or even fuse the joint to prevent further painful motion.
What Techniques Are Used?
Every reconstructive foot or ankle surgery is unique. Although, for example, two different bunions might look very similar on the surface, the best surgical approach may be quite different depending on things like your age, your lifestyle goals, or whether you’ve had a previous surgery.
Each condition requiring reconstructive surgery is evaluated carefully to develop an effective surgical plan. Examples of procedures that may be performed include:
- Repairing or reinforcing (via transfer) the connective tissues (ligaments and tendons) surrounding a joint. Often in a deformity, certain tissues are too tight while others are too loose. This creates “tugging” that can pull a bone or toe out of alignment, as with bunions or hammertoes.
- Cutting bones (and possibly removing small, wedge-shaped sections from the bone) so that they can be properly realigned. This is called an osteotomy. The bones are typically held together with metal hardware (pins, plates, etc.) to stabilize and protect them as they heal.
- Replacing a joint with an artificial implant. The damaged joint surfaces are carefully removed and replaced using prosthetic parts. As technology improves and the expected lifespan of prosthetics increases, this is becoming a better and better option for many patients.
- Fusing the bones in an arthritic joint together. This is called arthrodesis, and is typically used for smaller joints in older patients with more severe deformities or arthritis. Although this permanently prevents joint motion, it also stops the pain with relatively minimal limitation of mobility. It’s also less likely to need a revision surgery than a joint replacement (which may last only 10-20 years).
- Removing damaged joint surfaces, but not fusing them—also known as resection arthroplasty. This procedure leaves a relatively large gap between the toes, which fills with flexible scar tissue. It might be chosen as an alternative option if joint replacement or arthrodesis is not appropriate.
When developing your surgical plan, we’ll make sure to go through your options and explain all our recommendations carefully so that you can feel comfortable and confident about the procedure.
If deformity, arthritis, old trauma, or any other source of chronic foot pain and impaired mobility is stopping you from living your best life, give the Comprehensive Foot Centers a call today. We have offices throughout the Kansas City area (in both Kansas and Missouri) to assist you. Dial (816) 455-1155, or fill out our online contact form to get started.