What Is The Difference Between An Orthopedic Surgeon and Podiatrist?

Dr. Travis Kemp, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle, answers this question frequently. There are some key differences between podiatrists and an Orthopedic Surgeons that are important to understand when seeking treatment for your foot and ankle condition.

The most significant difference between a podiatrist and an Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon is the amount of education and training each professional completes. An Orthopedic Surgeon completes 4 years of medical school, a 5-year orthopedic surgery residency, in addition to another year of foot and ankle fellowship training for a total of 10 years of post-college education! An Orthopedic Surgeon is a Medical Doctor (MD), and has a better understanding of the whole body, therefore they have a deeper understanding of the impact other conditions can have on the foot or ankle.

In contrast podiatrists attend 4 years of podiatry school, then sometimes complete a brief 2 or 3 year residency a total of only 4 to 7 years of post-college education.  That is about half of the training that a medical doctor receives!  Due to the vast difference in training, Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons are more qualified to address all foot and ankle conditions no matter how big or small. In addition, this training has proven to result in better outcomes with a lower complication rate. See the scientific study study below.

An Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon has the ability to treat all foot and ankle conditions, no matter how simple or complex.  They are not limited by scope of practice, hospital privileges, or education to treat patients. 

If you have a foot and ankle conditions that you want evaluated, call Allied Orthopedics for an appointment at 208-855-2410.  You deserve the best care for your foot and ankle.  Why risk seeing someone with half the training when you could see and Orthopedic Surgeon?  

Learn more by clicking the brochure link below and this brief video



Scientific study:

Lower Complication Rate Following Ankle Fracture Fixation by Orthopaedic Surgeons Versus Podiatrists

Chan, Jeremy Y. MD; Truntzer, Jeremy N. MD; Gardner, Michael J. MD; Bishop, Julius A. MD

JAAOS - Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: August 15, 2019 - Volume 27 - Issue 16 - p 607–612

doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-18-00630

Introduction: Increased overlap in the scope of practice between orthopaedic surgeons and podiatrists has led to increased podiatric treatment of foot and ankle injuries. However, a paucity of studies exists in the literature comparing orthopaedic and podiatric outcomes following ankle fracture fixation.

Methods: Using an insurance claims database, 11,745 patients who underwent ankle fracture fixation between 2007 and 2015 were retrospectively evaluated. Patient data were analyzed based on the provider type. Complications were identified by the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes, and revision surgeries were identified by the Current Procedural Terminology codes. Complications analyzed included malunion/nonunion, infection, deep vein thrombosis, and rates of irrigation and débridement. Risk factors for complications were compared using the Charlson Comorbidity Index.

Results: Overall, 11,115 patients were treated by orthopaedic surgeons and 630 patients were treated by podiatrists. From 2007 to 2015, the percentage of ankle fractures surgically treated by podiatrists had increased, whereas that treated by orthopaedic surgeons had decreased. Surgical treatment by podiatrists was associated with higher malunion/nonunion rates among all types of ankle fractures. No differences in complications were observed in patients with unimalleolar fractures. In patients with bimalleolar or trimalleolar fractures, treatment by a podiatrist was associated with higher malunion/nonunion rates. Patients treated by orthopaedic surgeons versus podiatrists had similar comorbidity profiles.

Discussion: Surgical treatment of ankle fractures by orthopaedic surgeons was associated with lower rates of malunion/nonunion when compared with that by podiatrists. The reasons for these differences are likely multifactorial but warrants further investigation. Our findings have important implications in patients who must choose a surgeon to surgically manage their ankle fracture, as well as policymakers who determine the scope of practice.

Level of Evidence: Level III—retrospective cohort study