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01-12-2019 | Research | Uitgave 1/2019 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2019

Management of musculoskeletal foot and ankle conditions prior to public-sector orthopaedic referral in South Australia

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2019
Tom P. Walsh, Linda R. Ferris, Nancy C. Cullen, Jared L. Bourke, Melissa J. Cooney, Chi K. Gooi, Christopher H. Brown, John B. Arnold



Foot and ankle pain is common in the Australian adult population. People with musculoskeletal foot and ankle conditions are often referred for surgical opinion, yet how patients are managed prior to referral is largely unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the characteristics and management of patients with musculoskeletal foot and ankle complaints prior to public-sector orthopaedic referral in South Australia.


People with non-urgent foot or ankle complaints were recruited over a 12-month period from the waiting-lists of three tertiary hospitals in Adelaide, Australia. Participants completed a questionnaire on their medical history, duration and location of their foot or ankle complaint, diagnosis of their condition, previous treatment and medical imaging. The Manchester-Oxford Foot and Ankle Questionnaire, and the EuroQol-5D-5 L measured foot/ankle pain severity and health-related-quality-of-life (HRQoL). Descriptive statistics were generated for sample demographics, medical history and foot/ankle symptoms. Multivariable regressions were used to explore factors associated with foot/ankle pain severity and whether participants considered an operation necessary.


Two hundred and thirty-three adults returned questionnaires, with a survey response rate of 38.4% (66.1% female, median age 57.7 years IQR 18.5, BMI 29.3 kg/m2 IQR 8.7). Half of the participants had seen a podiatrist (52.8%), and 36.5% did not see any other health professional prior to orthopaedic referral. Sixty-five (27.9%) had not yet been given a diagnosis. BMI was positively associated with foot/ankle pain severity (β 0.48, 95% CI 0.05, 0.92), while HRQoL had a negative association (β − 0.31, 95% CI -0.45, − 0.18). Participants told by their GP that they may need an operation were significantly more likely to consider surgery necessary (OR 31.41, 95% CI 11.30, 87.35), while older people were less likely (OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.90, 0.98).


More than one-third of the participants had not accessed allied-health care prior to specialist orthopaedic referral. Participants may consider their GPs opinion on the necessity of surgery compelling, and most expected to undergo surgery, but many couldn’t report their diagnosis. The discordance between the expectation of surgery and historically low surgical conversion rates suggests more work is necessary to improve the management of this group.

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