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Why You Need to Get a Second Opinion For Foot Pain
While running barefoot on Ocean Beach, Belinda trips and feels a slight pop in her right foot. She was worried because she was training for a triathlon. So she went to the emergency room the next day, just to make sure everything was okay. “Just a sprain,” the ER doctor told her. A week later, she sat in the foot surgeon’s office and said, “I know I’m not a doctor, but I think this is worse than a sprain.”
I saw her x-rays and she was right. Her leg was broken. The pain at the top of her foot was coming from a micro-foot fracture from the Lisfranc injury. An upper leg injury that does not heal on its own. She would not recover without surgery.
This story seems far-fetched because it is frighteningly common. An award-winning study by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons on foot fracture patterns showed that primary care physicians and emergency room physicians miss 98.4% of radiographic abnormalities that are actually visible on x-ray films indicating this type. Pattern of injury. Another landmark study in 2004 from the University of Utah School of Medicine showed that micro, frequently misdiagnosed ankle fractures are 10 times more common than previously thought.
The problem is that many patients with leg pain or injury seek treatment from the doctor they see first. Often it is their primary care physician who is willing to work around their busy schedule because they are already familiar with the person. Another possible place to go is the emergency room.
This does not mean that an orthopedic surgeon is a better doctor than a primary care doc or an ER doc. It only means that you will get a more specialized specialist with sub-specialists. If you’re having chest pains or a stroke, there’s no question…your nearest emergency department is the best place to go. But if you suspect a sprained ankle or a broken foot, you need to see someone who is constantly looking at the bones of the foot.
Even if you’ve seen a foot and ankle specialist, but you’re really improving, you might want to get a second opinion. There’s a reason they say doctors are “practicing medicine.” It is an art and a science. If you are not improving and your leg still hurts, your doctor will choose someone else to see you. A new pair of medical eyes can help see something that has been overlooked.
There is a saying in medicine that “the mind sees what the eye sees.” This means that someone with trauma experience is looking for interesting, but less common injury patterns. Podiatrists without trauma or reconstructive foot surgery training may not recognize all the subtle changes that may indicate a rare fracture. That’s why you should always get a second opinion if you’re not happy with the speed of your recovery.
If you get a second opinion and your doctor agrees, you can rest assured that you will be fine and just continue seeing your original doctor. A second opinion is often worth the price for peace of mind and a full understanding of what to expect with your recovery.
Another major reason you may want a second opinion is foot surgery. If you have painful bunions and are considering bunion surgery, you should get a second opinion. There are more than 100 different surgeries performed to repair bunions, and it’s important to be educated and sure about your doctor’s surgical plan. If your surgeon tells you that you will need crutches for two months after bunion surgery, you are having major foot surgery. Maybe another surgeon has a different approach that allows you to walk after surgery and avoid crutches.
By the same token, suppose you plan to have a bunion removed and the podiatrist tells you that you should be able to walk immediately after surgery. It’s possible that more invasive surgery requiring a cast or crutches will help prevent the bunion from returning in the future. In the long run, it may be better for you.
However, once you have foot surgery, the rules change. You cannot undo a bad surgical outcome. There is no doubt that it is worth the time and expense of a second expert medical opinion before scheduling any foot surgery. Then, it’s too late. By getting a second opinion you are more likely to know what options are available and best suited for your situation.
Many reputable surgeons recognize the value of a second opinion. In fact, many of them will provide a “second opinion referral list” to anyone considering surgery. This list will provide you an easy way to choose from all the foot surgeons in the city where you live. You can then take the list, choose a foot surgeon, and get a second opinion.
If you ask your doctor about getting a second opinion and they seem upset or irritated, this should be a red flag. When a doctor believes he is making a good judgment call, he has nothing to hide. Remember, it’s your foot and you’ll be walking on it years from now. You should be like Kesha. If you think something isn’t right, get a second opinion and get the answers you need.
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