Specialists and other caregivers at WellSpan Orthopedics and WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital work together to provide integrated care for patients requiring foot and ankle surgery.
Christian Hall, MD, orthopedic surgeon and Medical Director of the Foot and Ankle Program at WellSpan Orthopedics
Eight in 10 Americans will experience foot or ankle pain during their lifetimes — caused by arthritis, trauma, disease, poor circulation, genetics, general deterioration and ill-fitting footwear — often limiting mobility and restricting their daily lives.
WellSpan Health offers an advanced foot and ankle program that provides treatment for a wide range of conditions — from common issues, such as bunions, arthritis or hammertoes, to more complex needs, such as fractures and flat foot reconstruction.
From Surgery to Physical Therapy: Working With Experts
The foot and ankle team at WellSpan Orthopedics and WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital is composed of orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, physician assistants, nurses and physical therapists, all uniquely versed in treating foot and ankle injuries and complications.
“We have an energetic staff that is solely dedicated to foot and ankle reconstruction,” says Christian Hall, MD, orthopedic surgeon and Medical Director of the Foot and Ankle Program at WellSpan Orthopedics. “We use a team approach both at the office as well as the hospital. Every staff member has a unique role in each patient’s treatment plan, from cast technicians who can address acute injuries to physical therapists who guide patients through therapy after surgery. Trained experts are working with patients at each step of the process.”
Dr. Hall is no exception. He completed medical school and his residency in orthopedics at Michigan State University before receiving specialized foot and ankle training from legendary medical professors Sigvard T. Hansen, MD, Bruce Sangeorzan, MD, and Stephen Benirschke, MD, while completing his fellowship at Harborview Medical Center at the University of Washington. After his fellowship, Dr. Hall spent five years in Portsmouth, Virginia, on active duty in the U.S. Navy where he specialized in foot and ankle trauma and reconstructive surgery for wounded soldiers.
“I’ve taken care of Marines, Navy SEALs and the Navy population coming back from war. We ran a very large clinic that addressed a wide range of medical conditions, from simple sports injuries to the reconstruction of complex fractures and injuries from explosive devices,” Dr. Hall explains. “That experience helped instill in me the empathy and skill to put patients’ lives back together. It also gave me a wide breadth of experience which prepared me well to manage the complex situations for the patients I see today.”
Dr. Hall points out the “hardware” used to help repair an injured ankle.
Improving Patient Outcomes
If a patient experiences foot or ankle pain, he or she should first seek a primary evaluation from either a primary care provider or one of WellSpan Orthopedics’ subspecialized physicians or physician assistants.
“We have an open scheduling policy which allows for patients to be seen the same day by one of our team members,” Dr. Hall says. “If I’m in the operating room and someone needs to be seen, one of our physician assistants will be available. Our physician assistants have been with us for a long time and are experts in foot and ankle conditions. You can’t put much in front of them that they haven’t seen before.”
At the primary evaluation, a physician will first consider nonoperative solutions, such as R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation), orthotic shoe devices or heel-cord exercises. If surgical reconstruction is required, surgeons at WellSpan Orthopedics often use leading-edge treatments, which range from low-profile plates to the latest and most-recognized ankle replacements.
If surgery is required, peripheral anesthesia through nerve blocks or nerve catheters is used, which can make patients pain-free for as long as five days after surgery — minimizing the need for postsurgical narcotics and promoting recovery.
“Peripheral anesthesia allows us to perform more complex surgeries that take longer and are more involved with minimal effect to patients in terms of their recovery after surgery,” Dr. Hall says. “It helps keep the pain under control and allows the patient to start rehabilitation more quickly, which leads to better outcomes.”
After surgery, a physical therapist coordinates each patient’s care. Physical therapists specifically trained in foot and ankle treatment helped establish rehabilitation protocols that are standardized across the healthcare system.
“By standardizing protocols, the physical therapists can detect subtle changes in a patient and adjust rehabilitation protocols to uniquely address each patient’s specific needs.” Dr. Hall says.
“I’ve been to a war zone and back, so I’ve seen some pretty complex things in my career, which has set me up going forward in the civilian sector. … There are not many things I haven’t already seen a more severe version of before.”
— Christian Hall, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Director of the Foot and Ankle Program at WellSpan Orthopedics
Returning To Daily Life
Foot and ankle conditions can be severely debilitating. However, through an interdisciplinary approach, the specialized foot and ankle care team at WellSpan can dramatically improve function and reduce pain long term.
“We often see people in their worst conditions — when they have lost hope that they will ever recover — and then they go through our process and are able to get back to their lives and even exercise,” Dr. Hall admits. “Seeing how far they’ve come despite the complexity of their problems is a very gratifying experience for me and for our entire team.”
For more information about services available at WellSpan Orthopedics, visit WellSpanSpecialists.org/Ortho.