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New Advances in Ankle Surgery Improve Patient Mobility

Replacements, Fusions and Transplants Heal Common and Chronic Injuries

New technologies developed in the last decade have helped ankle surgeons achieve better outcomes for a range of injuries and conditions.

The Mills-Peninsula Orthopedic Ankle Center team now offers total ankle replacement, a procedure that replaces a painful, arthritic joint with metal and plastic implants, similar to knee and hip replacements. Total ankle replacements are typically recommended for people who have advanced ankle arthritis, destroyed joint surfaces, or pain and stiffness that interferes with daily activities. Studies show that ankle replacements can safely and reliably ease pain and maintain mobility in patients. Improved ankle replacement parts made of metal and a smooth plastic material (polyethylene) can relieve the pain of bone rubbing against bone. 

Todd Kim, M.D.

Todd Kim, M.D.

 “As people get older, they’ve had more time to injure their ankles and joints,” says Todd Kim, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula orthopedic surgeon who has specialized training in both ankle and shoulder repairs.

Ankle injuries frequently occur during sports, but they can also be the result of household accidents, like a fall or trip, says Dr. Kim. Over time, repeated injuries can wear down the joint resulting in a painful, arthritic ankle.

“The ankle joint is smaller than the knee, yet carries the same force, resulting in more pressure on the joint surface,” explains Andrew Haskell, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula orthopedic surgeon and ankle specialist. 

Andrew Haskell, M.D.

Andrew Haskell, M.D.

In addition to total ankle replacement, ankle joint fusion can also help treat ankle injuries, allowing people to experience pain-free mobility. 

“We can transplant tissue from the knee to the ankle or graft stem cells from the blood in the patient’s own bone marrow and use it to re-grow and replace damaged areas in the cartilage,” Dr. Haskell says.

 “It’s kind of like fixing a pothole in the road,” he continues. “We poke holes in the bone, and the patient’s blood forms a clot, which then transforms itself over time into a cartilage-type material.”

By using the patient’s own blood and tissue in this manner, there is less chance of infection or rejection.

“Fused bones work very well, allowing people to hike, walk, play golf and more,” says Dr. Kim. He performed this procedure for Michael Ganster, a patient who played ice hockey in his youth and has always had ankle problems.

Three years ago Ganster fell off of a ladder and broke two bones in his foot and ankle. He spent eight weeks in a cast, but when the bone didn’t heal, Dr. Kim fused the ankle bone.

“My range of motion is different from before, but I feel great,” Ganster says. “I’m able to enjoy my favorite activities again.”