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Choosing a Foot and Ankle Orthopedist or a Podiatrist

How to Choose Between a Fellowship-trained Foot and Ankle Orthopedic Surgeon and a Podiatrist

Understanding the difference between two specialties that seem similar is especially important when choosing a healthcare provider to treat your foot or ankle pain. So, what is the difference between a podiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon? And, which is the best choice for a patient's specific condition?

There is a lot of overlap in foot and ankle conditions treated by these two medical specialties, but there are differences in the training each specialist undergoes to become certified by their respective board. An orthopedic surgeon is a Medical Doctor (MD) who pursues an additional 5 years of training in the specialty of orthopedics, learning to treat bones, joints and soft tissue throughout the body using operative and nonoperative modalities. Those who choose to subspecialize in foot and ankle go on to receive specific fellowship training, treating the entire spectrum of foot and ankle pain, injury, deformity, and disease. Comparatively, a Podiatrist is not an MD, and is trained to treat the foot and ankle exclusively, and is limited in the foot and ankle procedures he/she is licensed to perform.

Why Start With An Orthopedic Surgeon

Some patients believe a podiatrist is better at treating foot and ankle conditions using conservative measures especially if they believe, or have been told, their ailment is “simple” and does not require surgery. The truth is that foot and ankle orthopedic surgeons have the most comprehensive training available for nonsurgical treatment options and have the highest level of qualifications to diagnose the root cause of any foot or ankle problem.

The foot and ankle do not exist in isolation from the rest of the human body. Getting the right diagnosis and forming a long-term plan with someone who is qualified to manage all aspects of a patient’s care can often lead to a better patient outcome. As part of their advanced medical and surgical training, a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon is required to demonstrate medical expertise (MD), musculoskeletal expertise (orthopedic surgery), and subspecialty expertise (foot and ankle). This results in a deep understanding of how foot and ankle conditions impact the rest of the body, and vice versa, optimizing patient care and outcomes.

When to See a Podiatrist

Orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons and podiatrists maintain a close collaborative partnership and often work together to help patients in their communities. It is not uncommon for foot and ankle orthopedic surgeons to refer to podiatrists.

It may also be the case that a fellowship-trained foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon is not available in a patient’s community. In this case, a qualified podiatrist may evaluate and treat the patient if it is within their scope of practice.

Schedule a consultation with a Newport Orthopedic Institute orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon to treat your foot and ankle pain. Call (949) 722-7038.

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  • Forefoot Surgery "I was well informed every step of the way and all my questions were answered for me, which I very much appreciated." Provider: Andrew P Gerken MD
  • Hindfoot Surgery "All questions were answered. All concerns were listened to. I absolutely love this office." Provider: Andrew P Gerken MD
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