Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons say the risks outweigh the benefits
Rosemont, Ill. (March 1, 2019) – How far would you go to have “perfect” feet? Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons report that cosmetic surgery to enhance the visual appearance of lower extremities or to alter the shape of the foot to fit into specialized footwear is growing in popularity. However, they warn that these elective procedures come with serious risks and are not recommended for people with pain-free, functioning feet.
Commonly requested procedures include liposuction, toe straightening or shortening, fat-pad injections, and forefoot contouring. When performed for cosmetic reasons alone, these procedures unnecessarily put patients at risk for infection, nerve damage, chronic pain, and other complications.
“While reconstructive procedures address problems that cause pain and disability, cosmetic foot surgery deals with perception of style and beauty,” explains J. Chris Coetzee, MD, foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon with Twin Cities Orthopedics in Minneapolis-St. Paul. “One should always bear in mind that once the procedure is done, it is irreversible.”
Patients may also seek cosmetic foot surgery for hammertoes and bunions. A hammertoe is a deformity that adds an abnormal bend in the middle joint of the second, third, or fourth toe causing it to resemble a hammer. A bunion occurs when the joint of your big toe swells and sticks out, which could be caused by wearing tight, narrow shoes or high heels. While corrective surgery is available for both conditions, foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons advise against them unless the patient is experiencing pain or other symptoms.
Jonathan T. Deland, MD, a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon and Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, explains that patients often request surgery for asymptomatic bunions because they do not like how their feet look. The surgery involves cutting into the foot and shaving down the bone.
“I do not recommend shaving down painless bumps anywhere on the foot or ankle,” Dr. Deland says. “The procedure potentially exposes the patient to risks for insufficient reasons.”
Prevent toe deformities by choosing shoes with a wide toe box, soft soles, and a low heel height to reduce the pressure and compression on the toes. Do not force your foot into shoes that do not fit and avoid shoes that are sharply pointed. If you do have a toe deformity, non-surgical measures such as protective pads, orthotics, or physical therapy may help alleviate pain. Before considering any foot or ankle surgery, Dr. Deland advises that you consult with a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon to evaluate your options.
Stay informed about your foot and ankle health and find a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area at FootCareMD.org.
About Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons
Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Their education and training consist of four years of medical school, five years of postgraduate residency, and a fellowship year of specialized surgical training. These specialists care for patients of all ages, performing reconstructive surgery for deformities and arthritis, treating sports injuries, and managing foot and ankle trauma.
About the AOFAS
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) mobilizes our dynamic community of foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to improve patient care through education, research, and advocacy. As the premier global organization for foot and ankle care, AOFAS delivers exceptional events and resources for continuous education, funds and promotes innovative research, and broadens patient understanding of foot and ankle conditions and treatments. By emphasizing collaboration and excellence, AOFAS inspires ever-increasing levels of professional performance leading to improved patient outcomes. For more information visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society online at aofas.org.
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