Podiatric Surgeon Vs. Orthopedic Surgeon (In MD, D.C., and Northern VA)

Podiatric Surgeon Vs. Orthopedic Surgeon

Do you have a foot and/or ankle problem and live or work in MD, Washington D.C. or Northern VA?

Does it hurt when you walk and/or run?

Are you trying to decide whether to see an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatric surgeon?

Lots of patients have the same question – what is the difference between an orthopedic surgeon and a podiatric surgeon?

This is very common.

There are many groups that do lower extremity surgery, some are MD’s, some are DO’s, and many if not most are DPM’s (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine).

The Main Differences:

Orthopedic Surgeon

An orthopedist spends four years in medical school. While a podiatrist spends four years in podiatric medical school.

There is also a difference in post graduate training and surgical training as well.

Orthopedic surgeons spend 5 years in general orthopedic residency with diversified time learning about the bones and joints, construction and surgery – diversified amongst the entire body (some decide to go on and specialize in certain parts of the body)…

Only about 48 or 50% get any organized training in the foot and reconstructive ankle surgery during residency. Of those percent, it’s only about 3 weeks during their 2nd or 3rd year.

Upon graduation from their residency program to become board certified they submit the cases that they performed over a specific period of time. It’s possible and in most cases, that an orthopedic surgeon can become board certified in Orthopedic Surgery having never performed reconstructive foot or ankle surgery.

Yet when they come to a hospital and apply for privileges, they request all orthopedic privileges, which includes reconstructive foot and ankle surgery and often are granted.

Now does this mean they are not qualified? Certainly not, there are some Orthopedic Surgeons who through experience and some of their training who are good at foot and ankle surgery.


A Podiatric surgeon does 4 years of college and 4 years of podiatric medical school. They perform the same basic sciences as a medical doctor during podiatric medical school, along with clinical rotations throughout all the departments of medicine and surgery.

After that Podiatric surgeons do a 3 year residency, spending 3 years of time focused solely on foot and ankle surgery.

The sole focus of the Podiatric surgeon during their residency training time is learning about foot and ankle surgery specifically, this becoming experts in the lower extremities.

All of the time in podiatric medical school following by the post graduate time in residency is spent specifically learning about the foot and ankle.

The difference is considerable with almost 3 years of training on the foot and ankle.

We hope that we have fully educated you on this matter so that you can make an informed intelligent decision.

If you would like to come in and see us at The Beltsville Foot and Ankle Center for help with any of your foot and ankle problems, give us a call at 301-937-5666 or click here to request your appointment online.

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