Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons warn against popular cosmetic foot and ankle procedures
Foot and ankle surgery can have many benefits, including relieving pain and improving the way you walk, but when the goal is solely to change the way your feet look, the risks of surgery outweigh the advantages. As the popularity of cosmetic procedures to alter the appearance of feet and ankles continues to rise, foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons urge readers to consider the risks carefully prior to potentially unnecessary surgery.
“Context often defines whether or not a procedure is cosmetic,” said James Meeker, MD, a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon with Oregon Health & Science University and chair of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) Evidence-Based Medicine Committee. “When appearance and foot shape are the chief motivators for surgery, patients expose themselves to surgical complications without the benefit of pain relief or improved function.”
In an official position statement developed by the Evidence-Based Medicine Committee, the AOFAS recommends against cosmetic foot and ankle surgery, asserting that there lacks medical evidence to support the safety or effectiveness of these procedures.
The committee notes that social media and internet marketing often provide patients with misinformation or exaggerated claims about the ease and efficacy of surgical correction, especially in the case of bunion procedures. A bunion is a prominent bump at the base of the big toe, often caused by genetics or from wearing tight shoes. Surgeons do not support operating on bunions unless the patient is experiencing pain or other symptoms.
Other cosmetic procedures include liposuction, toe straightening or shortening, fat-pad injections, and forefoot contouring. When performed for cosmetic reasons alone, these procedures could put patients at risk for infection, nerve damage, chronic pain, and other complications.
The committee urges patients to try non-surgical measures such as changing shoes before undergoing surgery. “Non-operative care is often effective in addressing common appearance-related foot issues,” said Dr. Meeker. “Switching to comfortable shoes or adding shoe inserts can provide support or relieve pressure to prominent parts of the foot.”
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.