“There is nothing quite like having an integrated multispecialty orthopedic practice with specialists from every field of care to serve our patients,” says Dr. Andrew Belis, Partner and President of Orthopedic Center of Florida. “We work together to combine diagnostic studies and collaborate in providing the best treatments possible. We have numerous specialists treating conditions from head to toe. It’s important for comprehensive patient care and it’s where we shine.”
Belis is a podiatrist and foot & ankle surgeon; however, there are times when foot and ankle problems stem from other issues. In a practice like Orthopedic Center of Florida, their specialists work with Dr. Belis to treat the patient as a whole.
“Not many podiatrists are integrated into a multi-specialty orthopedic group. I’ve been one of the trailblazers in this area,” he says.
Minimally Invasive and Arthroscopic Surgery
While Dr. Belis treats all aspects of the foot and ankle, he specializes in minimally invasive and arthroscopic surgery. Take for instance injuries to the Achilles tendon where he says, “My approach is minimal with a small incision, which provides a proven quicker recovery and speedier rehab. It’s rewarding for me because my patients do so well and heal much quicker than the traditional larger open approach.”
Passion and Fascination
Dr. Belis’ passion for fixing things started as a child. He laughs, “My dad never hired a handyman. I have always been good with my hands and understand how things work.”
And although his father, a Greek immigrant, pushed him in the direction of medicine, it seemed a natural inclination. He remembers dissecting a cow’s lung and heart in 6th grade science class. “Everyone hated it except me,” he laughs. “I finished in no time then went around helping everyone else. I was fascinated with biology and anatomy.”
He is still fascinated by it today performing a range of techniques including ankle arthroscopy, “using a camera to look in the joint and treat minor cartilage injuries, to more complicated procedures, such as removal of painful bone spurs and ligament reconstruction from sprains and chronic ankle weakness,” says Dr. Belis.
“I really enjoy performing reconstructive procedures on patients suffering from flat foot and other deformities,” he says. In some cases, he is even able to treat bunions in a minimally invasive procedure that includes smaller incisions.
Sports medicine is another aspect of his expertise that lead the podiatrist to treat Gary Cerny. Cerny was on an indoor climbing wall when he fell backwards fracturing his ankle. He remembers, “The first physician I saw told me it was 50/50 whether I should have surgery.”
He went the no surgery route.
Over the course of the next eight months, Cerny was constantly in pain and his ankle frequently swelled. “The turning point for me, was a trip with my two boys to Lego Land,” he says. “After ten minutes my foot looked like a balloon and I thought, ‘this is crazy. I can’t live like this.’”
Cerny’s boys attend school with Dr. Belis’ children and the two occasionally saw each other socially. “He was uncomfortable for a long time and it was not normal,” says the physician. The next time the two met was in Dr. Belis’ office where he took X-rays, an MRI and performed a diagnostic, fluoroscopic guided injection to validate the location of Cerny’s pain.
Fluoroscopy is a technology that uses an X-ray to produce a real-time image of the injection site on a monitor, enabling Dr. Belis to see the exact location of the needle. When the needle is in the exact spot, he injects dye and anesthetic to be certain, then evaluates the location of the damage which helps determine the next step.
He explains, “If it numbs the joint and if pain is relieved, then that is a good indication of how the patient might feel if we operate; it gives us a level of predictability. I pride myself in diagnosing something thoroughly before diving in.”
After weighing the options this time, Cerny said yes to surgery. “It healed quickly and within a month I was better by leaps and bounds,” he says. Today he is back to playing basketball and tennis, riding bicycles with kids to school, but still says “no” to rock wall climbing.
“The surgery changed his life,” says Dr. Belis about Cerny.
The physician also changes patients’ lives with preventive care, especially in regard to diabetics. In the case of a patient who suffered for years from diabetic toe ulcers, Dr. Belis determined the recurring problems stemmed from an extremely tight tendon. “I performed a simple procedure that involved lengthening the tendon and in two weeks the ulcer healed.”
Dr. Belis is the kind of physician who takes his time with patients to make sure he understands their condition so he can get to the root of the problem rather than just putting a band-aid on it. He is also quick to give credit to his staff saying, “They go above and beyond. You can only be as good as your staff and I’m very lucky to have them.”
Cerny agrees, “The entire staff was just amazing. They all made me feel at ease. Dr. Belis was thorough, confident, and conservative in his approach. I can’t say enough about him.”
“I take care of people with foot and ankle problems,” says Dr. Belis. “I work hard to give my patients a better quality of life by improving their lower extremity conditions.”
If you are suffering from foot or ankle pain or have a lower extremity problem, call Dr. Belis for an appointment.
12670 Creekside Lane
Fort Myers, FL 33919