Is There A Case For Cosmetic Foot Surgery?

April 26, 2015

Traditionally, cosmetic surgery has been associated with procedures such as breast surgery, nose jobs and liposuction. However in the last decade there has been an increasing growth in cosmetic foot surgery. As with most trends and fads the origins of cosmetic foot surgery can be found in the US, but a quick search on Google will reveal that there are now several clinics here in the UK offering cosmetic foot surgery.

So what do we mean by cosmetic foot surgery? I would define it as “surgery on a pain free and fully functional foot, undertaken solely to improve the cosmetic appearance”. A number of procedures exist popularised and marketed particularly by podiatrists in the US and here in the UK including the “Cinderella procedure”, “foot facelift”, “Loub job” and “toebesity correction”.

To complicate matters, many foot and ankle conditions are associated with deformity which can result in an unsightly foot. However not all of these conditions need to be treated surgically. Many people have no pain. Some people who do have symptoms can be successfully managed with appropriate footwear.

When pain becomes a problem and function is compromised, then surgery is a reasonable option. Common conditions resulting in poor cosmesis and painful symptoms include:

Surgery in these symptomatic people can offer significant improvement in quality of life, pain relief and function.

However surgery does not come without risk. Indeed, there exists no surgeon on the planet who has a zero complication rate and equally there exists no surgical procedure with a zero complication rate. All medical doctors are taught an early stage, Primum non nocere which is a Latin phrase that means “first, do no harm”.

It is therefore very difficult to justify any form of surgery in patients who have no symptoms. The American and British Orthopaedic Associations of Orthopaedic Surgeons stand against the principle of cosmetic foot surgery. As an orthopaedic surgeon I would advise patients to avoid cosmetic surgery in a pain free and fully functional foot. The danger is that they may improve the cosmetic appearance of the foot but at significant cost, with crippling pain and compromised function a real possibility in the event of a complication.

In patients with painful symptoms and who have exhausted all conservative treatments I urge you to read about your condition, research the facts and see a reputable and experienced orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon, before considering any type of surgery.

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