BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— At one time, foot and ankle specialists would discourage patients with arthritis from getting a total joint replacement because of the risk of infection, and problems with early systems. Those patients had few choices, except to fuse the joint and lose mobility. But now, a new design for one ankle replacement system means patients, even those with severe deformities, have more options.
Wendy-Rubin Fitzgerald has lived her entire life around horses, at one time competing in national arenas. But during a trail ride, a snake crossed her horse’s path, causing him to spook, throwing Wendy off.
“I always wore spurs. I had spurs, so I didn’t land flat. I landed on my ankle and the spur just trashed it,” Wendy recalled.
Wendy knew as soon as she tried to stand, she was in trouble.
“That step was the most painful, and it was also crunch, crunch,” Wendy illustrated.
Dr. Lew Schon is an orthopedic surgeon and the co-inventor of the Zimmer total ankle replacement.
“All my cases are lateral approach. We cut the outer bone. Position it, get everything properly aligned and correct the deformity,” explained Schon.
The Zimmer’s design is different from other companies and is made from a material called tantalum.
“That is a very special metal that inspires bone to grow into it,” clarified Dr. Schon.
Wendy had a rod holding her ankle together at first, but then had the Zimmer ankle replacement four years ago. She no longer rides but is active on her trainer’s farm with very few restrictions.
“He told me if I took care of it, I’d have it for life,” Wendy shared.
Schon says robotic testing on the Zimmer suggests the replacement will last about 15 years before the plastic parts in the ankle might need to be replaced. While his patients can resume many of their activities, Schon recommends his patients don’t run on the ankle to extend the life of the replacement.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.