Do I Really Need Foot or Ankle Surgery?

Dec 13, 2019

Learning that you probably need surgery is never exactly a fun experience. In fact, some patients are so put off by the idea that they’ll delay seeking treatment until their pain is almost unbearable.

But you needn’t worry! And in fact, delaying treatment will only make things worse for you—and quite possibly force you into the result you were hoping to avoid in the first place.

At Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates, we take what we think is a very sensible, compassionate, and patient-focused approach to surgical care. Number one, we’ll always do everything in our power to help you avoid surgery if possible. And number two, if it ends up that you do need surgery, we’ll go out of our way to make the experience a positive and comfortable one for you—and with Dr. Mark Fillari, you’ll be in good hands with an extremely talented and caring surgeon.

Let’s unpack this a bit.

Foot & Ankle Surgery

What Kinds of Conditions Might Require Surgery?

Foot or ankle surgery may be the right choice for a variety of situations or conditions. Some common examples are listed below—but to be clear, this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Foot deformities. Here, we’re talking conditions like bunions, hammertoes, and flat feet (among others). Bony deformities can put your feet and joints out of position, make it difficult to perform certain activities, and cause pain. Surgery is the only way to put your bones back in place, and might be necessary if conservative therapies aren’t enough to help you maintain your preferred lifestyle.
  • Severe traumas / injuries. Accidents, trauma from sports, and other injuries may require a surgical repair if there is a displaced fracture or severe sprain or tear. In some situations (such as a partially ruptured Achilles tendon) you may have a choice between surgical or non-surgical approaches, with pros and cons for each.
  • Severe arthritis. Again, this is a condition that we would generally recommend managing conservatively whenever possible. However, in cases where severe osteoarthritis is causing constant pain from bones rubbing together, a surgical fusion of the joint may be the best solution—sacrificing a small degree of mobility for a large reduction in pain.
  • Neuromas. A Morton’s neuroma is a benign enlargement of nerve tissue that can form in the balls of the feet. Walking on the neuroma may feel like electric shock sensations. Sometimes conservative therapies will relieve your pain well enough, but in other cases a small surgery to remove the neuroma and/or nerve may be a better choice.

Leg injured woman visiting doctor

How Will I Know if Surgery Is Right For Me?

For some conditions—say a severe, displaced fracture—emergency surgery is really the only logical solution. You really have no choice.

However, a lot of the surgeries we perform, such as bunion reconstruction, are elective in nature. Ultimately, you get to make the call when you feel the time is right.

We won’t pressure you to make a decision you’re not comfortable with, but we do have some guiding principles that we think may be useful to you.

Number one, we strongly recommend that you consider, and exhaust, all applicable non-surgical remedies before moving on to a more aggressive option. This has been our basic approach to foot and ankle care for more than two decades, and we’re always adding new, advanced conservative therapies (such as MLS laser treatment) to reduce the need for surgery even further.

Surgery really should be a last resort in most cases. Even for something like a bunion—which cannot be “fixed” without surgery—a non-surgical approach may still allow you to reduce or relieve your pain and function well within your preferred lifestyle.

That takes us right to our second guideline. If your foot condition isn’t stopping you from living your best life, there’s really no need to put yourself through surgery, is there?

Typically, surgery is recommended only if both of the following are true:

  • All non-surgical alternatives have either been tried or ruled out.
  • You are still experiencing daily pain, OR your pain is preventing you from engaging in certain specific activities that are important to you (such as walking to stay healthy or playing a favorite sport).

As you can imagine, that second bullet point is what makes surgery such a personal choice. One person might be comfortable giving up certain sports or activities and replacing them with other hobbies that don’t cause discomfort. For others, that’s simply not an option.

Either way, our job is not to force you down one road or the other. It’s to present all your options to you clearly, and help you make the choice that’s right for you.

Friends running together outside

Top Quality Foot and Ankle Surgery in Burlington County

Those of you who have known Dr. DePalma for a long time know how passionate he is about finding non-surgical solutions to common foot problems. Conservative care has always been our primary focus, and that isn’t going to change.

That said, we understand there are times when a surgical approach might be either necessary or preferred. And that’s why we’re so glad to have the talents of Dr. Mark Fillari here at Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates!

He is well trained to provide a wide variety of foot and ankle surgeries, including foot deformity reconstruction, joint repair, grafts, and more, and is constantly researching and learning new methods and techniques to improve the quality of his surgical care.

We will also, of course, make sure you are well supported with accurate information, follow-up care, and all the advice and coaching you need to make sure your recovery period is a smooth, uneventful, and quick as possible.

But in case you’ve already forgotten, remember this—the earlier you seek help, the better the odds that either Dr. DePalma or Dr. Fillari will be able to treat your condition successfully without needing surgery. So don’t delay! Please call our office in Medford today at (609) 714-0052, or request an appointment online.


520 Stokes Road,
Suite C-5
Medford, NJ 08055

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