Foot and ankle problems? You may need this expert

Q & A with Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon Gina Cahill, M.D.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Gina Cahill, M.D.

Q: What is your approach to care?
My focus is on the patient and helping them to achieve a good quality of life. I want the patient to be involved in their own care and have an understanding of the treatment options available to them.

Q: What made you want to focus your practice on foot and ankle care?
I was a gymnast growing up and did gymnastics in college. I had several foot and ankle injuries of my own, so I feel that I have a personal connection to this specialty. Also, foot and ankle treatment can include a wide variety of conditions and procedures such as trauma, bone and soft tissue reconstruction, sports medicine and arthroplasty, so I get to manage a little bit of everything which keeps things interesting and challenging.

Q: What’s the difference between an orthopedic physician and a podiatrist?
The main difference is in the training. As an orthopedist, I went through four years of medical school learning comprehensively about the human body, followed by five years of orthopedic residency, the first of which was spent doing a lot of general surgery and focusing on fundamental surgical principles and concepts. My residency included training with plastic surgery techniques and the broad scope of orthopedics and musculoskeletal care, including upper and lower extremities, spine, etc. Finally, I completed a one-year fellowship in foot and ankle surgery. So an orthopedic specialist typically has 10 years of post-graduate training before going into practice.

Q: What types of patients do you see?
I see patients with any issue involving the foot and ankle, including the lower leg. Basically, my specialty is from the knee down. However, I will see patients for other general orthopedic issues as well, including shoulders, hips and knees.

Q: Why should someone see a foot and ankle specialist versus a general orthopedic physician?
Any subspecialist has more focused and specific training in their particular area, so they tend to have a deeper knowledge and understanding of treatment and management of those particular issues.

Q: Do you bring any unique skills and insights to your practice/patient care approach?
I understand what these athletes are going through, not only from the medical aspect but also on a personal level as a former gymnast. I feel this allows me to anticipate my patients’ expectations and manage their rehabilitation better. I also trained under Dr. Steven Haddad, who designed and developed the most commonly used total ankle arthroplasty systems, so I’ve had extensive experience with those devices.

Q: How do you determine when surgery is necessary?
I try to manage things conservatively whenever possible. I am not an overly aggressive surgeon. I only perform surgery when truly necessary after conservative treatment is no longer working, and when benefits outweigh the risks. There is always an extensive discussion with the patient about all non-surgical and surgical options, and we come to a decision together.

Q: What type of surgical procedures and treatments do you perform?
Total ankle arthroplasty; bony and soft tissue reconstruction of the foot and ankle; arthritis treatment; ligament reconstruction; tendon repair; and treatment of ankle and foot fractures.

Q: What types of rehabilitation programs are involved in recovery from foot and ankle procedures?
Typically most recovery includes at least a few weeks of physical therapy. Larger or more complicated procedures may have a longer recovery process and involve a more prolonged course of physical therapy. I work very closely with our physical therapists and have specific protocols in place so that each patient gets thorough and safe rehabilitation.

Dr. Cahill practices at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists in Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village and Schaumburg, and performs surgery at the NCH Day Surgery Center.


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