Should I See an Orthopedist or a Podiatrist for My Foot and Ankle Problems?

Updated 7/7/2020
Orthopedist Surgeon vs, Podiatrist, Univeristy Foot and Ankle Institute

We often talk with patients who aren’t clear as to whether they should see a podiatrist or an orthopedist for their foot and ankle problems. We feel it is important to offer some insight on this topic for our patients and prospective patients.

 

What's the difference between a podiatrist and an orthopedist?

The main difference between us and general orthopedists is that from day one, a podiatrist emphasizes the foot and ankle in their training, knowing the end result will be specialized and comprehensive care of the foot and ankle. Orthopedic training, on the other hand, must include ALL areas of the body.

What are the differences in medical training between a podiatrist and an orthopedist?

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Podiatrists are foot and ankle specialists who perform only foot and ankle care in their practices. The level of training for a podiatrist consists of 4 years of podiatry medical schooling and training, with a specific foot and ankle emphasis. Over the years, the training has become more in line with medical school training and is often in conjunction with medical school students.

Following podiatric medical school, a currently trained podiatrist will perform 3 years of residency, which often involves orthopedic training but with an emphasis on foot and ankle procedures, diagnosis, and care. A podiatrist may then opt to receive an additional year of training in advanced and complex foot and ankle care following residency. This is called a Fellowship.

 

Since the University Foot and Ankle Institute, like UCLA, is a teaching practice, for the last ten years, podiatric graduates from around the world have applied to our advanced fellowship program.

 

An orthopedist performs four years of medical school training with an emphasis on medical care. After medical school training, a medical doctor may select orthopedic training as their specialty. While foot and ankle are included in the care of patients throughout the orthopedic training, the training must include all areas of the body.

 

Rarely is there an emphasis on the foot and ankle during this time. However, an orthopedist may select to perform an additional year of fellowship training in foot and ankle. This is the point at which an orthopedist will learn detailed complexities of foot and ankle care as we have during our training.

 

Both podiatrists and orthopedists perform many foot and ankle procedures. The care of a specific body part is commonly performed by multiple specialists. For example, both plastic surgeons and orthopedic hand surgeons perform hand surgery. Both neurosurgeons and orthopedic back specialists perform back surgery. This is also the case for foot and ankle care. Both orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists treat the foot and ankle.

 

So Who to Pick?

We often note that foot and ankle procedures are basic carpentry. We cut bones or fix bones. We use screws, plates, and anchors to repair ligaments, tendons, and bones. This does not differ among orthopedists and podiatrists. There are good carpenters and surgeons in every field and you need to pick the right doctor for your care. Check on the reputation of the doctor and the amount of time they dedicate to foot and ankle care.

 

Equally important is that you like the person taking care of you. You will need to spend time with them before your surgery and during your recovery. You deserve a person who will take care of you and someone you feel comfortable with. It is great when all goes well, but should there be a problem or complication, be sure you can rely on them and they will be there for you when you need them.

 

So in conclusion, don't pick a foot and ankle specialist according to the title after their name, but according to their skills and expertise. Make sure you will be able to talk to them and that they will be available to you. Make sure you trust them and their skills. MAKE SURE YOU LIKE THE PERSON.

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