New technology helps arthritis patients walk again

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

The simple act of walking can be a real struggle for someone with ankle arthritis, but many people are slow to consider a surgical option to relieve their pain.

Up until now, a fusion, which limits mobility, was the go-to surgery. However, that could change, thanks to new technology.

The truth is that a lot is riding on our ankles. Yolanda Ocampo learned that after shattering her ankle in a car crash. Her first surgery in 2020 fixed the bones, but two years later, the pain was still so crippling she hardly left her house.

“It still hurt when I step down, you know, I cannot stand up long enough for me not to feel no pain,” Ocampo said.

Many times, an accident or injury leads to ankle arthritis.

Fort Myers orthopedic ankle surgeon Jeremy Schwartz said that when people can no longer stand it, they often come to him.

“It can be difficult just to get out of bed and go across the room, you know, constantly on medications for pain,” Schwartz said.

When medications don’t work, patients can fuse it or lose it, removing the faulty joint and replacing it with plastic and metal, much like an artificial hip or knee.

“Historically, the instrumentation for implanting the ankle replacements wasn’t nearly as advanced or hip and knee, but with the new 3D technology, it’s really allowed us to put these in almost perfectly,” Schwartz said.

The 3D technique helps alignment. It starts with a CT scan of the patient’s ankle. Then, an exact replica is made, which includes the new joint. The 3D models serve as a guide.

“We bring those into the operating room, actually, and we fit them directly onto the model of the bone, and then we can transfer that actual guide onto the patient’s actual bone, and we secured into position, and then we do all of our cuts and all of our implantation based on that exact guide,” Schwartz said.

The result is a joint that is almost as if nature made it.

The surgery allows patients to jump back into life.

“I’d like to go back to my exercising, just to get back my legs to go back to normal.” Ocampo said.

“When you do an ankle replacement, if you walk to watch the person walk across the hall, you wouldn’t know which ankle was operated on and which was not,” Schwartz said.

Ocampo’s new ankle should carry her well into the future.

3D ankle replacements are still considered relatively new in the medical field.

Researchers have been studying them for about a decade, and data shows that they are about 90% successful ten years later.

Click here to learn more about the Stryker Total Ankle System.

Click here to learn more about Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida.

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