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Health: New techniques deliver better outcomes for foot and ankle surgery patients

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health column Geoffrey Watson

health column Geoffrey Watson

Few bones bear the weight of our day-to-day activity quite like our feet. Throw in the slightest misstep, and injury can occur seemingly out of the blue. 

For Geoff Watson, M.D., a foot and ankle surgeon at the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, caring for patients with lower extremity injuries comes naturally. During his first month of residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, his dad suffered a tendon injury, and Watson learned firsthand the importance of proper diagnosis and care. 

“A few weeks into my residency, my dad had an Achilles tendon rupture that was misdiagnosed, and went about four weeks before realizing the tendon was torn and another two weeks before surgery,” Watson said. “Because the treatment timeline was delayed, he ended up having a bigger surgery and a longer recovery process.” 

Watson learned early the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and said today’s diagnostic capabilities and procedures are much better at getting patients moving quicker with less pain.

Foot injury by age

Watson said there tends to be a pattern between age groups and common injuries. 

“I see patients of all ages come in for ankle fractures, whether from a fall or some sort of trauma,” he said. “We often see tendon ruptures in the weekend warriors ages 30 to 40, then bunions for patients 40 and up, and arthritis and other degenerative issues with older patients.” 

Treatment for injuries ranges from physical therapy to surgery, including newer preoperative CT scans and cutting-edge models to help patients recover more fully, faster.

Achilles tendon repair

Achilles tendon ruptures can be debilitating, but can typically be repaired surgically to get patients back to full function. While most Achilles tendon ruptures occur while playing sports, any sudden pressure can cause an injury, and more minor tears may be treated without surgery. 

A new technique called Percutaneous Achilles Tendon Repair limits scarring and risk factors previously associated with surgery. 

“With this new technique, we’re making a very small incision to do the repair instead of an open surgery,” Watson said. “Because the incision is smaller, there’s less trauma and less chance of complications.”

Total ankle

 replacement

For patients with severe arthritis, total ankle replacement can offer significant relief. 

“An ankle replacement is similar to a hip or knee replacement in that it significantly lowers patients’ pain, and arthritis is commonly the diagnosis that leads to this kind of procedure,” Watson said. “This procedure has the upper hand over other surgeries that can limit a patient’s range of motion and put pressure on surrounding joints, potentially leading to complications down the road.” 

After a total ankle replacement, the recovery process typically includes six weeks of keeping weight off the ankle, followed by four weeks of physical therapy, ramping up to full weight-bearing capacity.

When to see a doctor

While Watson encourages any patient who has a foot or ankle condition like arthritis to visit an orthopedic specialist, he says it’s especially important when there’s concern of fracture or a potential tendon injury. 

“Fractures or Achilles tendon ruptures are injuries that, if missed, can be more difficult to fix later on and lead to a significantly longer recovery time,” Watson said. “If there’s a doubt, come visit a specialist and we can ensure it’s treated properly the first time.”

About Dr. Watson

Geoffrey Watson, M.D., is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. He has assisted in orthopaedic care for the Ole Miss Rebels, New York Knicks and New York Giants, is a past team physician for the Fairview High School Yellow Jackets and is the current team physician for the Franklin High School Rebels. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (615) 791-2630.

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