What is a Podiatrist / Podiatric Surgeon?

The following is a statement by the Past Chair of The College of Podiatrists, Mr Trevor Prior, Consultant Podiatric Surgeon.

A Podiatrist will have studied for three years to obtain a degree in Podiatry or Podiatric Medicine. Podiatrists are independent Clinicians, qualified to diagnose and treat foot problems. Many Podiatrists specialise in specific areas of work such as Diabetes, Rheumatology, sports injuries etc. With the exception of nail surgery, Podiatrists use non-surgical (all non-invasive) methods of treatment and this remains the mainstay of treatment for most foot problems. Until recently, Podiatrists in the United Kingdom were known as Chiropodists.

Mr Trevor Prior (Consultant Podiatric Surgeon)

Podiatric Surgeon

A Podiatric Surgeon is a Podiatrist who has undertaken extensive Post-graduate training in foot surgery. They are therefore non-medically qualified specialists in the treatment of all foot problems utilising conservative (non-surgical) and surgical treatment methods.

Training

A Podiatrist is specifically trained to assess, diagnose and manage foot complaints. Whilst a Podiatrist is not medically trained and therefore not a Doctor, extensive Postgraduate training enables Podiatrists to perform foot surgery. Podiatric Surgeons are highly specialised only operating on the foot rather like a Dental Surgeon who will only treat your mouth. Podiatric surgery is a proven and effective aspect of foot health care with thousands of foot operations performed each year. The training involves:

  • 3 year full time degree in Podiatry
  • 2 years general Podiatric Practice
  • 2 year primary fellowship - Postgraduate Certificate in Podiatry
  • 2 year surgical training programme - Postgraduate Diploma in Podiatry
  • Final Fellowship examination
  • 3 year specialist training (Clinical Fellow in Podiatric Surgery)
  • Accreditation with the Faculty of Podiatric Surgery
  • Consultant Podiatric Surgeon
  • Minimum of 12 years training

Professional Registration

All Podiatric Surgeons are required to be registered with the Health Professions Council with the award of Fellowship and training provided by the Faculty of Surgery, The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists. Foot surgery has traditionally had a poor reputation. However, with a greater understanding of foot function, advanced surgical techniques and modern pain medication, the results are now much more successful.


Performing Operations

Many foot operations can be performed under local anaesthetic avoiding the nausea and drowsiness associated with general anaesthetic. Many patients ask whether this will be a painful process believing that, because it is a local anaesthetic some pain sensation will still be present. Modern local anaesthetic techniques prevent pain sensation completely and it would not be possible to perform the surgery if this was not the case.

Although the operation will not be painful patients will still feel pressure and movement but this will not hurt.

Where necessary, general anaesthetic or sedation is available and the risks associated with these techniques are now extremely small.


Podiatric Surgeons vs Orthopaedic Surgeons

Podiatric Surgeons should not be confused with Orthopaedic Surgeons as their training is different. Orthopaedic Surgeons train as doctors initially and then specialise in Orthopaedic Surgery. However, this training is for the whole body rather than one specific area. On completion of training, many Orthopaedic Surgeons sub specialise into specific interest areas, including the foot. However, most continue practicing general Orthopaedic Surgery.

By contrast, Podiatric Surgeons are not doctors but are trained specifically to manage the foot and this is their only area of practice.

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