For most people, foot problems resolve with treatments like medication, exercise, and physical therapy. But in some cases, podiatric conditions may not respond to conservative therapies, or the condition may have progressed too far for these treatments.
When this happens, reconstructive surgery on the foot or ankle can improve mobility, reduce pain, and prevent future complications. Board-certified podiatrist Jennifer Tauber, DPM and the team at New Canaan Podiatry in New Canaan, Connecticut specializes in this advanced treatment.
If you’re facing reconstructive foot surgery, here’s a look at what you can expect from the procedure and while you recover.
Understanding reconstructive foot surgery
When your foot condition or a disease makes it difficult to walk or stand and more conservative therapies can’t help, foot reconstruction offers a way to minimize pain and discomfort, restore function and mobility, and improve the appearance of your feet.
Rather than a single procedure, foot reconstruction means different types of surgeries with different levels of reconstruction depending on the issue being treated and the severity of the condition.
Some of the most common reconstructive foot surgeries include:
- Bone fusion: Surgery to hold bones in place and reduce pain
- Joint implantation: Removal of damaged bone and cartilage and replacement with prosthetics to improve joint function
- Osteotomy: Stabilizing and repositioning bones with devices like staples, pins, or screws
- Bone grafts: Rebuilding or repairing damaged or diseased bones with transplanted bone
- Bunion surgery: Surgery to repair big toe deformities
- Hammer toe surgery: Surgery that typically involves removing a portion of a toe bone and re-aligning the joint or fusing several joints in the toe
- Heel spur surgery: Surgery to release the plantar fascia with or without excising bone in the heel
- Soft tissue or tendon/ligament repair: Surgery to repair skin, soft tissue, tendons, or ligaments in the feet
- Flatfoot reconstruction: A combination of surgical procedures to repair foot deformities and the ligaments and tendons
- Clubfoot surgery: Major reconstructive surgery to rebuild the soft tissues of the feet
- Charcot foot reconstruction: Surgically repairing the bones in the feet to avoid amputation
A total ankle replacement is a more involved type of reconstruction, while nail avulsion or matricectomy is generally a quick, in-office procedure
What happens after reconstructive foot surgery
Your recovery after reconstructive foot surgery depends on the type of surgery you have and the severity of your condition before the procedure. For example, recovering from a partial nail removal may take a week or so, while recovery from a total ankle replacement may take up to a year.
Whenever possible, the New Canaan Podiatry team uses minimally invasive surgical techniques, like arthroscopy. This allows them to make important foot connections without the need for large incisions that cause trauma to the surrounding tissues.
By using minimally invasive techniques, your podiatric surgeon executes the surgery with more precision, while causing your body less harm. This means you experience less risk of bleeding, infection, scarring, and pain with a faster recovery time.
Since foot reconstruction varies widely, Dr. Tauber and your team tell you specifically what you can expect after your personalized treatment. However, there is some overlap that applies to almost all procedures:
- You can expect to wear a splint, wrap, or specialized cast to keep your foot immobile
- You should apply ice and compression as directed by your provider
- For many surgeries, you may not be able to bear weight on the surgical foot for 1-8 weeks after your procedure — you might need crutches, a wheelchair, or a walker
- Most reconstructive surgeries will require physical therapy to strengthen your foot and ankle and improve function
- Your provider may recommend over-the-counter medications to help ease your discomfort, or you may receive prescription medications
Generally, full recovery takes several months. For athletes or highly active people, Dr. Tauber may make special recommendations for getting back in the game as soon as safely possible.
To learn more about reconstructive foot surgery and what you can expect after treatment, schedule an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Tauber at New Canaan Podiatry.