Health

Health Beat: Treating ankle arthritis: Total replacement?

Health Beat: Treating ankle...

BALTIMORE - Hazel "Joyce" McNeil works out almost every day.

"I like it cause it's whole body." McNeil, 81, explained.

Years ago, McNeil would not have been able to workout because of severe pain in her ankle. It started with a wintry day half a century ago.

"I fell on a piece of ice that was probably the size of a dime," McNeil said.

Her leg broke in seven places. Doctors reset the bone, but it was never quite the same.

"Because of all those years, 40-50 years of her walking on a little bit mal-aligned leg, over time the ankle joint was worn down," said Dr. Clifford Jeng, an orthopedic surgeon at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

McNeil lived with arthritis until she was in her 60s.

"I felt so miserable and I limped so much that it tired me out. I was ready," McNeil stated.

Jeng said instead of fusing the bones, more patients are turning to total ankle replacement to relieve chronic pain.

"We can keep the motion with an ankle replacement. They have a more normal gait and the pain relief has been shown to be equivalent to an ankle fusion." Jeng said.

Jeng said a new generation of replacements means surgeons remove a lot less bone. The replacements are successful in 80 percent of the patients over 10 years. McNeil is going on 15 years, keeping her on her feet and independent.

"I don't want to be a burden to anybody." McNeil said.

The gold standard for treating chronic ankle pain has been fusion, but Jeng said many patients don't like the stiffness that comes with that surgery. He also said total ankle replacement is not the best option for everyone. Those with diabetes or other underlying health conditions would not be good candidates for the surgery.


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