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doctor in surgery with male patient reading notes

No one ever wants to hear they need surgery, but in certain cases, it’s what best for a patient. If you’ve been living with swollen joints, painful muscles or other foot and ankle pain, you may be at the end of your rope. Once you visit with a podiatrist and he or she decides you need surgery, they will likely recommend you to an orthopaedic surgery specialist.


What Is an Orthopedic Surgery Specialist?

The duties of an orthopedic surgery specialist may vary, says surgeon David Geier. “In recent years, the field of orthopedic surgery has become extremely subspecialized. General orthopedic surgeons do exist. Many now have added fellowship training in a subspecialty within orthopedic surgery, such as joint replacement, sports medicine, hand surgery, spine, pediatrics, etc.,” he explains.


1. Finding a Specialist

Therefore, if you’re immobilized by foot and ankle pain, you should seek out Chicago orthopaedic surgery specialists. You can do this in a few ways. First, you can research using the Internet, limiting your search to specialists in the area. Just make sure to do your due diligence and read as many patient reviews as you can.

Ask for the opinion of friends, family and neighbors who may have seen a surgery specialist. You may also speak to your podiatrist to get his recommendations.


2. Prepping for the Appointment

Once you schedule your appointment with an orthopedic surgery specialist, you’re not going to have the operation right away. Much like an appointment with a regular doctor, the specialist will review your medical history, ask questions about your pain and then make an assessment.

To ensure these appointments go as smoothly as possible, David Geier recommends prepping before the appointment in a few ways.

  1. You’re probably curious about what the next steps are in regards to your surgery. Now’s the time to ask. Jot down any concerns and questions you have, and bring this paper with you.
  2. As you book your appointment, start a pain journal. Obviously, the longer this goes on, the more of an effective aid it is to the specialist. However, even a week’s worth of logs matters. As Geier says: “It can be difficult to remember specific details of your problem. When and how did the problem start? What treatments have you tried? Rather than scrambling to remember the details in the exam room, spend a few minutes before the visit writing down that information.”
  3. Make sure your medical records are up to date. If you have to, add any new information to the forms. This makes the life of your surgeon easier and can cut down on wait time.
  4. Get important documents from all previous doctors you’ve seen. Whether it’s a primary care doctor, a podiatrist or another specialist, Geier recommends bringing relevant MRI and CT scan results and x-rays from these medical professionals.

stethoscope and medical papers


3. Paying for the Appointment

Generally, the more specialized the medical care, the more it costs. You may have put off seeing an orthopedic surgery specialist out of fear of a possible operation. However, you may also be delaying the appointment because you’re not sure how much it’s going to cost. As long as you have a good health insurance plan, the appointments and even the surgery shouldn’t be a huge financial burden.

“Insurance covers the cost of visiting orthopedic specialists, so your insurance coverage is the primary factor that determines what you will pay out of pocket,” says Orange County Orthopedics in California.

“Some patients have a low deductible, so that even invasive surgery is very affordable,” they add. “Other patients have a higher deductible. While these patients may not experience high costs for appointments and non-surgical procedures, the cost of surgery can be high for patients with a higher deductible.”

Are you one of those patients with a higher deductible? Orange County Orthopedics say there may be another way.

“In cases where a patient needs surgery but cannot pay their out-of-pocket costs all at once, financing may be used to manage the cost of treatment,” they write. “Patient financing companies allow patients to spread the cost of treatment out over the cost of several months. Other financing options include loans, lines of credit, credit cards, and health care credit cards.”


4. Planning for Surgery

Before your specialist decides surgery is the best course of action, she will likely try other treatments. These non-surgical methods may include physical therapy, medication, orthotics and more. If you have any questions during this time though, make sure you ask them, suggests Samuel Greengard at Healthline.

Once you and your specialist come to the consensus that surgery is required, you’ll have a lot to do. Money once again comes into play. As mentioned above, most health insurance plans will cover the cost of a surgery, but it never hurts to call the insurance provider and double-check. You don’t want to be surprised with a big bill after surgery.

Depending on what’s causing your foot or ankle pain, there may be multiple surgeries that can treat the problem. Ask your specialist about these. Your surgeon can explain which operation is most effective. Do your own research, too.

You will have to spend time recovering. You should prepare a meal plan ahead of time, find someone who can take you to and from the hospital for the operation and set up a room at home where amenities are close by. Depending on the type of surgery, recovery can take weeks, months or even a year.

Be aware that almost all surgeries have the potential for complications. These may be minor or serious. Discuss complications with the specialist and ask how rare these are. If experiencing complications, always get medical assistance immediately.

You may need physical therapy to restore strength, power and mobility to the foot and ankle after the surgery. Discuss this with your orthopaedic surgery specialist.

doctor at laptop surrounded by papers


5. Following up After Surgery

After your surgery, you will still have to stay in touch with your specialist and probably your podiatrist, too. Expect several follow-up appointments spread out in the weeks and months after surgery. During these appointments, the specialist will ask about the recovery, make sure the foot or ankle is healing as expected and adjust medications or physical therapy as needed.


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