The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

3 Reasons Why Foot Surgery May Not Be Right for Every Patient

Posted by on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013


A patient walks into a medical clinic.

“What brings you in today?” asks the podiatrist.

“I need surgery on my foot,” the patient responds.

This individual has done a bit of online research and feels that cutting into the foot is really the only way to relieve the chronic foot pain. That may be so, but one should approach a visit to the podiatrist with an open mind. Often, there are a number of more conservative treatments that can bring relief. An article in Podiatry Today discusses why surgery is a bad wager for some patients.

 Foot Surgery Warning Sign #1: Low Pain Tolerance

Patients who have complained about foot pain for a long time are more likely to have higher levels of post-operative pain, as well. In some cases, a foot condition can be quite serious — so much so that a dramatic intervention like surgery is the only real fix. Yet, in other cases, patients may have lower pain thresholds and scream at a basic filament test. Surgery is not a “quick solution” or an “easy fix.” It should not be a decision that is taken lightly, because it could take a long time before you are out of the woods.

Foot Surgery Warning Sign #2: Scar Tissue

Secondly, patients who have had surgery in the same spot before may not have realistic expectations. Plantar fibrosis, built-up scar tissue in the feet, may have formed from a previous surgery — thus making the likelihood of success a greater challenge. We never like to recommend surgical interventions when fibromas are present because removal only results in a high recurrence rate and a more large-scale removal can lead to other foot issues.

plantar fibroma
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Foot Surgery Warning Sign #3: Unrealistic Expectations

Lastly, surgeons will always steer patients away from surgery if they seem too impatient about their recovery. “How soon can I get back to my 12-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week job?” they’ll ask. Or they may say something like, “I have a vacation coming up which involves a lot of walking.” Recovery time simply cannot be rushed.

“I think you have to be patient with foot surgery and cannot be on a strict, inflexible timeline,” says one of our experienced NYC podiatrists, Dr. Nadia Levy. “These situations lead to lesser outcomes because the patient will push themselves too soon. Foot surgery is best for patients where the problem is affecting their quality of life and also best for patients who understand that every body heals at different rates.”

foot recovery
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Dr. Katherine Lai adds, “Discuss your expectations about your foot surgery with your doctor.  Sometimes you’ll find out that what you’re hoping the surgery will achieve is unrealistic.”

Dr. Levy explains that foot surgery is not ideal in patients with co-morbidities (like diabetes or obesity), which may affect healing. Also, she says, “If you are a heavy smoker, foot surgery may not be ideal for you unless you significantly cut down.”


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.