Physical Trauma and Foot Surgery
The typical association for the word “trauma” (when used in a physical context) tends to be “blunt force,” but trauma can actually refer to almost any kind of body tissue injury that requires immediate medical attention and has a sudden onset. Accordingly, cuts and burns meet the definition.
As a note, surgery itself can actually be considered physical trauma. Of course, this is a planned, controlled trauma being performed by skilled, trained professionals, but trauma nonetheless.
For unexpected trauma, there are often a host of serious medical concerns – with potential problems that include severe pain and/or blood loss.
The injuries resulting from physical trauma are usually referred to as being “acute.” This differs from chronic conditions and injuries, which usually (but not always) develop after performing physical activities—like running, sports, and exercises—for lengthy periods and are considered to be “overuse” injuries. Examples of these include plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.
Probably unsurprisingly, one particular kind of injury that often results from blunt force is a bone fracture. There are different kinds of breaks, including:
- The fractured bone only features a single break and has not pierced through the skin.
- The broken ends of the bone are lined up in a normal manner and will likely heal correctly (if the fracture is stabilized).
- The fracture line of the bone is at an angle.
- The fracture line is perpendicular to the bone.
- The bone has broken or shattered in two or more parts.
- Skin has been punctured – either by the broken bone itself or the traumatic incident responsible for the break. This is an emergency situation and immediate medical attention is needed. It is imperative to take proper precautions to reduce the risk of serious infection.
With regards to treatment for this traumatic injury, the body actually does most of the heavy lifting itself. That said, our job is to make sure the bone(s) stays stable during the healing process, which happens in three stages:
- Immediately following the injury, your body begins this particular stage wherein blood is flooded to the area and begins to clot. This provides a certain degree of stability, along with framework, as the body starts the process of generating new tissue.
- Bone production. During this stage, the clotted blood is gradually replaced by cartilage and fibrous tissues. In turn, they will eventually be replaced by solid bone.
- Bone remodeling. The final stage of healing, this is where bone tissue increases in density and become compact. Additionally, circulation to the area will return to pre-injury levels.
In addition to providing external stability, we may need to perform surgery to realign broken parts and then secure them into place using screws, pins and plates.
Conditions That May Require Surgery
There are a variety of conditions that are more likely to necessitate surgery than others. This is not a comprehensive list, but examples of issues that can benefit from surgery include: arthritis, bunions, hammertoes, cartilage damage, bones spurs, posterior ankle pain, and, as noted, compound fractures.
When a patient’s arthritis does not respond to nonsurgical procedures, especially in severe cases, the bones of painful joints can be fused together. This type of surgery has a high success rate and only a small percentage of patients develop complications.
Some conditions such as bunions and hammertoe are progressive. This means they worsen over time (when left untreated), but it also means they cannot be reversed without surgical intervention. Dr. Tepper can create a treatment plan based on conservative care—and this might relieve symptoms and halt progression of the condition—but severe cases may need surgery.
In fact, surgical intervention is the only way to restore wayward and bent toes back to their normal positioning and function.