Cosmetic Foot Surgery on the Rise

Surveys Show Patients Want It, Surgeons Don't

From the WebMD Archives

March 12, 2004 (San Francisco) -- Although there aren't firm numbers on how many people undergo cosmetic foot surgery, it appears to be a growing trend, orthopaedic surgeons say.

In a survey of 150 foot and ankle surgeons taken within the last six months, half said their patients were asking for cosmetic foot surgery. Yet in a separate survey of consumers, only 26% said they would consider this type of procedure.

Half of the surgeons also said they had treated patients for complications from cosmetic surgery, said Sharon Dreeben, MD, a foot and ankle surgeon in private practice in La Jolla, California.

She presented results of the survey at the American Association of Orthpaedic Surgeons annual meeting; it was conducted for the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.

The majority surveyed (82%) said they thought cosmetic foot surgery was inappropriate. Surgery is considered cosmetic if it's done to manipulate or change a foot that has no underlying injury, said Dreeben.

Women seek surgery to shorten their toes, narrow their feet, or have collagen or silicone injected into the pads of their feet so they can wear high heels, said Nancy Kadel, MD, a foot and ankle surgeon at the University of Washington in Seattle. "These are surgeries done on structurally normal feet that are pain-free," she said.

The survey of consumers found that 19% of women wear 2-inch heels most often, 12% wear 3-inch heels or higher, and 89% wear 1-inch heels or flat shoes most often.

Dreeben noted that a 1-inch heel increases pressure on the forefoot by 22%, a 2-inch heel by 57%, and a 3-inch heel by 76%.

But both Dreeben and Kadel said they're not suggesting that women should never wear high heels or not have bunions or other deformities surgically repaired. But, said Dreeben, "There's one reason to operate on a bunion -- that's pain, pain, pain."

In late December, after media reports of an increase in cosmetic foot surgery, the American Academy of Foot and Ankle Surgeons warned that the risks outweighed the benefits, and that cosmetic foot surgery "should not be considered in any circumstances."

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthpaedic Surgeons 71st Annual Meeting, March 11-14, 2004.

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