NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is good news for people limping around on arthritic ankles — and there are millions.
Ankle replacements that weren’t very good are now a good option.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Wednesday, new implants and better surgery means pain relief and normal function.
Bum knees and hips have been replaceable since the 1960s. But ankles are tougher joints to replace. They take a lot of stress, bear a lot of weight and are anchored in smaller bones than knees and hips, so they tend to loosen more easily.
So most people and doctors avoided them — until now.
Watching Frosty Blakeslee stroll down the street Wednesday, you’d never know that four years ago even simply walking was almost unbearable.
“My ankle hurt 24/7. I had to think about how I walked up the stairs and down the stairs from the kitchen to the living room,” Blakeslee said.
Even more frustrating, her bad ankle made it impossible to pursue her passion for skiing. In fact, Frosty was a certified professional ski instructor, so the conventional advice for an arthritic ankle — fusion — was out.
“No. No way. I wouldn’t be able to get in a ski boot. I want be able to have as much mobility as I could for skiing and hiking and biking,” Blakeslee said.
So after much research, Frosty came to foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Jonathan Deland at the Hospital for Special Surgery, who gave her even more reasons for avoiding a fusion.
“That stiffness, or having your ankle fused, puts stress on adjacent joints. Then you have to fuse those. It can almost eventually become, function like a peg leg,” Deland said.
Deland showed Blakeslee the new generation prostheses that have changed ankle replacement from an option barely better than fusion to one that can restore nearly normal function.
“Patients get good relief of pain. They can have a little discomfort. It’s like a ‘wow ‘operation. They go, ‘Wow, this is terrific,'” Deland said.
Frosty had her replacement four years ago and is back on the slopes.
“One-hundred percent relief. One-hundred percent mobility. I’m able to ski anything, walk up and down anything. It’s … I was amazed,” Blakeslee said.
Like any joint replacement, this surgery isn’t for everyone and it’s not a medical necessity. But when the pain becomes unbearable and it’s significantly affecting your quality of life, ankles now rank up there with hips and knees as successful joint replacements.