“We're just going to scrape some bone”
A patient has some minor irritation on the outside of her large toe when walking long distances. Nothing severe, but enough that she thinks maybe she'll get it looked at. She goes to her general physician, who refers her to the local podiatrist.
The podiatrist takes a look at the foot, and without blinking an eye, says, “you've got yourself a bunion. No problem, we'll just scrape a little bit of bone off and you'll be good to go.”
Patient thinks nothing of it. The podiatrist was friendly, seemed to know what he was talking about, and sounded reassuring.
The day of the procedure comes (or the podiatrist just does the surgery at the time of the office visit – this is not unheard of), and the surgery takes place.
Help – my toe is floating
After the procedure, the patient notices that her foot feels strange, and the top of her toe is out of alignment. She goes to see the podiatrist, who reassures her that it's just “healing” and it will be fine. This goes on for 1,2,3 or more months, until the toe is firmly healed in this position.
Now the patient has a real problem, because it's extremely painful to put on shoes, let alone walk any significant distance. So the podiatrist recommends fixing the toe, which requires a fusion of the joint. The patient, seeking some relief, reluctantly agrees.
Help – I can't move my big toe
Now the toe joint is fused, and while the patient is able to put on a pair of shoes, the limited movement in her to renders her completely unable to run, jump or otherwise do anything that requires more than basic movement of the foot. And her gait is off, which is causing significant problems with her back.
But now there's not much that can be done to fix the problem, because the joint has been fused and the options from here are limited. Now, two surgeries later, the active patient who had some minor irritation is facing the likelihood that she'll never be able to do anything remotely physically active again.
This is a common scenario. It's one that is entirely preventable, but one that occurs often and is the result of poor podiatry care.
In this scenario, the podiatrist made several mistakes. The first was immediately jumping into a surgery when there may have been other, more conservative options.
The second was when the podiatrist performed the surgery, known generally as a bunion repair, he cut too much bone which led to what's known as a hallux varus condition – where the toe floats away from the rest of the foot. When a hallux varus is created by excessive bone removal, the patient's options are limited.
And finally, by performing the fusion in an attempt to repair the hallux varus, the podiatrist effectively sealed the patient's fate.
We've seen this scenario play out many times in podiatry malpractice cases. If you find yourself in this position contact us today, we may be able to help.