Tallahassee, FL – At Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, orthopedic surgeons now perform an advanced surgical procedure that can help alleviate pain and restore mobility for those with impaired ankle function. Called total ankle replacement surgery, the procedure replaces arthritic ankle bones with a prosthetic joint. Prior to the development of effective ankle replacement surgery, patients had only one surgical option for pain and loss of movement in the ankle: ankle fusion surgery. This procedure removes the joint and permanently fuses the leg and ankle bones together, resulting in relief of pain but loss of mobility in the ankle.
"The advantage of total ankle replacement surgery is the return of some freedom of movement in the ankle," says Aaron Guyer, MD. "By replacing the ankle joint rather than fusing it, patients can expect to return to their everyday activities with less recovery time than traditional ankle fusion surgery."
Frances Lingo, age 54, underwent the procedure in 2010, after wearing a brace on her left leg for ten years. “My ankle was completely immobile and I had limited motion in my knee,” she says. “I just knew there had to be something else out there.”
Frances’ struggles with ankle problems began when she broke her talus bone playing high school basketball at age 16. Although she had surgery to repair her ankle at the time, her physicians warned a gradual deterioration of the joint would be inevitable. A diehard enthusiasm for sports fast-tracked the decline, and by her 40s, Frances’ pain necessitated a 24-hour brace beginning just above her left knee and wrapping around her entire calf and foot. She says the cumbersome brace caused her to limp and throw her weight to the opposite side of her body, placing undue stress on her right knee, hip and ankle. This was part of her motivation to have the ankle replacement surgery.
“This has been a moving, life changing experience for me. I can’t say enough about Dr. Guyer, the folks that work with him, and my physical therapist at Tallahassee Memorial,” Frances says. A model patient, Frances was very dedicated to her recovery, attending physical therapy at the Tallahassee Memorial Ortho/ Spine/ Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation Center two to three times per week, and also completing exercises at home on a regular basis.
“I was really committed to making it work,” says Frances, who is now enjoying the results of the surgery and physical therapy sessions. “I can walk. I can take the stairs if necessary, and I can go shopping with my family, which is something I used to avoid because it was so difficult to get around.... I feel like I’ve gotten my mobility back.”
Although ankle replacements have been used in Europe for several decades, the current generation of ankle implants have only been available in the U.S. since 2006. In the Big Bend area, Dr. Guyer and Andrew Borom, MD are the only two surgeons who currently perform this procedure. “For every patient with ankle arthritis, about one in five are candidates for this procedure,” says Dr. Borom. “For the right patient, this is an excellent procedure that offers freedom from joint pain without loss of motion.”