Ankle replacements may relieve pain for arthritis patients

More than 50-million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis.

Between 6-percent and 13-percent of them have ankle arthritis, and these patients feel pain with every single step they take.

Now, ankle replacements are giving patients a new lease on life.

Diane and Joey both know the pain of ankle arthritis.

Diane Shaughnessy says, "It's as if there was a vice just constantly being turned and squeezed."

Joey Meyer says, "It was grinding, and sometimes, it would catch, and I’d just drop to my knees."

“Go to bed with pain, sleep with pain and wake up with pain," Diane adds.

"Life was not a whole lot of fun," Joey says.

Doctors used to fuse ankles to relieve the pain, but that meant very limited mobility. Now, there is ankle replacement surgery.

Doctor Johnny Lin, an orthopedic surgeon, says, "Relative to a fusion where he may be in this position and kind of just stuck like this, you can really see what that ankle replacement allows somebody to do."

With an ankle replacement, surgeons remove abnormal bone and cartilage and insert a metal and plastic implant. Newer implants mimic the human ankle and allow for better rotation and movement. Doctors can also treat more patients with a variety of injuries. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, the number of ankle replacements doubled.

Dr. Lin says, "For me, it's very gratifying to restore function instead of just improving upon abnormal function."

Doctor Simon Lee says, "We're changing lives to some degree."

After a replacement, patients can enjoy almost any low impact activity, but running is not recommended.

Joey says, "I walk, I do the elliptical, I ride the bike, I mean I do a lot of things now, and really… the ankle's fine."

"My daughter, when she got married, we were able to get up and do the dancing that we, you know, is traditional at all weddings," Diane says.

Now, Joey and Diane can enjoy life without pain.

Doctors believe ankle replacement will last about 15 to 20 years, which is what any joint implant is expected to last.

Candidates are those over 50 years of age with severe arthritis that does not respond to medications.

Patients cannot be severely overweight to qualify for the procedure.


TOPIC: Ankle Replacement
REPORT: 3801

ANKLE ARTHRITIS: Arthritis is a chronic condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints of many over the age of 50. Arthritis can form in the ankle when the ankle has damaged or worn cartilage. Ankle arthritis can be a serious condition that causes pain in every step you take and can cause the ankle to lock up, severely limiting one's mobility. The ankle is composed of three bones, the tibia, fibula and talus. These three bones come together to create the connecting joint between the leg and foot. Arthritis can form in any of these ankle bones and can occur as a part of rheumatoid arthritis or stem from a physical injury. (Source:

TREATMENTS: The current, most common treatment option for dealing with ankle arthritis is medication. Arthritis medications work to slow pain and stiffness, prevent joint damage and relieve inflammation. Many anti-inflammatory medications can be purchased over-the-counter and are used for all types of arthritis, not just in the foot and ankle. Analgesics are commonly prescribed medications that focus only on relieving pain and are used to treat many forms of arthritis and injuries. For patients with more serious conditions, medications may not be enough and surgery may be necessary. An ankle fusion is a procedure done to ease pain by removing the surface of the joint affected by arthritis and using screws and bolts to join bones until they fuse together. While this procedure is effective in reducing pain in the ankle, it also reduces mobility by keeping the ankle from moving side-to-side and up-and-down. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new procedure can now ease pain from ankle arthritis without limiting the ankle's mobility. Total ankle replacement is done by removing the damaged bone and cartilage through a surgical cut in the ankle and replacing it with prosthetic parts. These replacement ankle parts are expected to last around 20 years. Since 2012, the number of total ankle replacement surgeries has doubled as doctors have become more accustomed with the procedure and patients spread positive word of mouth. (Source:


Jessica Brunt
Administrative Assistant to Simon Lee, MD
Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University
Phone: (312) 432-2348

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

MB #3801
JUL '14

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