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Can a Podiatrist Do Surgery?
One of the most common reasons a person may be referred to a podiatrist is diabetes. When the body fails to produce or properly use insulin, the nerves in the feet may become damaged due to poor circulation. WebMD estimates that 65,000 people face amputations each year as a result of this. Podiatric physicians may be responsible for this surgery due to a focus on treating all conditions from the ankle to the toes. These doctors may also provide treatment plans to prevent this and other conditions from happening in the first place.
The different types of podiatrist specialties
The three most common job titles in this field are podiatrist, podiatric physician and podiatric surgeon. While all three are considered foot and ankle doctors, the number and types of surgical procedures each one performs will depend on educational background.
Some may also choose to focus on one area exclusively. For example, a podiatric physician may focus on providing non-invasive procedures, while a podiatric surgeon may prefer to handle only surgical referrals from his colleagues.
Aside from specific job titles, foot and ankle doctors may also be classified based on the types of clients served and in what industry. Here are some possibilities:
- Sports medicine
- Primary care
Educational background and training
Though known as doctors, there is no MD after their names. This is one of the main reasons that patients may wonder whether or not podiatrists can perform surgery. Instead of MD, names are followed by DPM, which means doctor of podiatric medicine.
What is the difference between a DPM and an MD from an educational standpoint? Both professionals tend to begin careers as doctors with a four-year Bachelor of Science in biology degree. However, when medical doctors go off to med school, foot and ankle doctors attend a school of podiatric medicine.
While specializing in podiatric medicine, these doctors learn about how the nerves, muscles and bones work together to create movement, such as walking, running or jumping. They also study the illnesses that may hinder this ability and how to treat them. As a result, foot and ankle doctors commonly treat athletes.
Like medical doctors, after graduating from college, DPMs must also complete a residency. In this capacity, DPMs will work alongside other doctors, such as pediatricians, general surgeons and anesthesiologists. This may further assist with choosing a sub-specialty.
The bottom line
So, can a podiatrist perform surgery? The short answer is yes. The more accurate answer is that like any other type of doctor, it depends on areas of specialty chosen in school. Professional preferences will also further dictate what kind of cases are accepted. If you are already working closely with a doctor of podiatric medicine, it is best to ask them what procedures are performed in the practice.
Note also that when patients are referred for foot surgery due to bone fractures, there may be a choice between a DPM and an orthopedic surgeon. While orthopedic surgeons are remarkable at treating all areas of the body, the podiatrist’s singular focus on the foot and ankles tend to sometimes make them a better choice.
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