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Top 10 Foot and Ankle Surgeries: A Comprehensive Guide

October 03, 2023

Patient with broken leg and splinted for treatment in the hospital

When a broken ankle, bunions or other painful foot injury keeps you from enjoying everyday tasks, orthopedic surgery can help get you back on your feet. From walking to driving and even mowing the lawn – you need healthy feet for simple tasks. Unfortunately, foot and ankle injuries are common, and while many conditions will resolve with rest and supportive care, some problems require the expertise of an orthopedic surgeon. 

Surgery can seem scary when dealing with an injury. However, many procedures are minimally invasive with an easier recovery to get you back to your favorite activities. 

"For the right patient, minimally invasive surgery results in quicker recovery, smaller incisions and less risk of complications such as infection and wound healing problems," says Jeffrey Levy, D.O., a fellowship-trained foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon with Riverside Orthopedic Specialists

1. Bunion correction 

The goal of bunion correction is to realign the joint at the base of the big toe, relieve pain and repair the bones. Your surgeon may make small cuts to realign the bone, tendons and ligaments properly. In some cases, screws or plates will reinforce the changes made by the surgeon. 

"Bunion surgery is an outpatient procedure that can be done in less than an hour," says Dr. Levy. "Then with help from your doctor, a physical therapist, exercises and the right footwear, you can return to normal activities in a few months." 

2. Hammer toe correction 

Hammer toe surgery depends on the severity of the condition. Often minimally invasive surgery can correct the hammer toe with quicker results and less pain. If that is not possible there are options to transfer tendons or fuse joints of the toe to help straighten them. A small pin or wire secures the bones as they heal together. 

3. Total ankle replacement 

During total ankle replacement or ankle arthroplasty, your surgeon removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial joint (prosthetic implant). The new ankle joint allows the foot to move and pivot, relieving pain and helping you regain unrestricted movement. 

4. Flat foot reconstruction

Flat foot reconstruction surgery restores the foot's arch, improves alignment and reduces pain. Your surgeon will perform several procedures to repair the bones, ligaments and tendons that create a proper arch. This procedure may involve cutting bone, lengthening or transferring soft tissues like tendons and ligaments and fusing joints. 

5. Great toe arthritis correction

Treatment for arthritis of the big toe (hallux rigidus) varies based on the severity of the arthritis. In mild to moderate arthritis, your surgeon can remove some bone or the bone spur on top of the big toe (cheilectomy) to relieve your pain.

For severe joint damage, bone fusion may help. During a bone fusion procedure, your surgeon removes damaged cartilage, and the two bones are rejoined and reinforced with screws to grow together. 

6. Ankle Arthroscopy

Ankle arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure where an orthopedic surgeon uses a small camera to diagnose and repair ankle problems. Small incisions allow the surgeon to insert a camera, repair tissues in and around the ankle and remove any damaged tissues.

"Most people undergoing ankle arthroscopy will experience less pain and greater mobility after the procedure," says Dr. Levy.

7. Cartilage restoration

Cartilage damage makes even basic everyday movements painful. A variety of procedures can treat cartilage injury. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Scope debridement: removing damaged cartilage
  • Grafting: replacing damaged cartilage with healthy cartilage from another part of the body
  • Microfracture: making tiny holes to stimulate new growth

Depending on the joint and extent of damage, you may require one or more of these procedures to restore your cartilage.

8. Midfoot fusion for arthritis

Midfoot fusion removes damaged tissue, realigns bones and secures them together while they heal so they can grow together. Orthopedic surgeons use metal plates and screws to keep the bones in place. This procedure reduces pain and improves mobility. 

9. Achilles tendon repair 

The Achilles tendon is the largest in your body. It connects the calf muscle to your heel. Repairing the tendon will vary based on the severity of your injury and may include traditional or minimally invasive surgery. During the procedure, your surgeon makes an incision to remove the damaged tissue and repair the tendon. 

10. Ankle and foot fracture repair

The goal of surgery for a fractured foot or ankle is to realign and secure the bones and to remove or repair any damaged soft tissues. Screws or plates may secure bones in place while they heal. After repairing a broken foot or ankle, you'll use rest and elevation to ensure proper healing over several months. 

Get the help you need to get back on your feet

Orthopedic surgeons have long been the experts in treating the most common foot and ankle conditions. If you're dealing with an injury, talk to an orthopedic surgeon to understand your treatment options. 

Make an appointment with Dr. Levy or one of our orthopedic surgeons and get on the road to recovery. 

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