Pain-free ankle implant

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 6, 2008 5:06:01 PM PDT
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Anybody who has it knows how painful it can be, but now doctors are helping some people walk pain-free in a new way.

Beverly McFarland has had 10 surgeries because of painful rheumatoid arthritis. Now she's going in for number eleven.

McFarland is the first person in the world to get a new type of ankle replacement. Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic are trading in traditional ankle fusion that gives very limited mobility with a new ankle replacement.

"Instead of locking up those two bones, you replace the end of each bone, and allow the patient to maintain normal mobility of that ankle joint," Brian Donley, MD.

Surgeons remove the bumpy arthritic portion in the ankle joint and attach a metal plate to the end of the leg bone. Then, they place a metal cap on top of the ankle bone. A piece of plastic is put in between to keep the metal from rubbing.

"The patients seem to be doing exceptionally well. They seem to really enjoy the relief of pain and almost all patients have had complete relief of pain," said Donley, who is director of the Foot and Ankle Center at The Cleveland Clinic.

Donna Maiken also had her ankle replaced.

"I was walking bone-on-bone. I had no cartilage," she said.

She broke her leg more than two decades ago. Since then, Donna has lived in pain.

"It got really, really uncomfortable, where I could be up like three or four hours a day and then I had to sit down," said Donna.

Now, just weeks after surgery, she said, "Every day it gets a little bit better."

Both women are on their feet pain-free following the surgery.

Since this is a new implant. There are no final results on how long it will last. The best candidates for an ankle replacement are people over 60. There's less risk of the implant wearing out.