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New Era of Ankle Replacement: December 4, 2011

What to do with a worn out ankle? While an estimated 3-quarter million knee and hip replacements are done yearly in the U.S., ankle surgeries lag behind with approximately 4,000. That number should rise as surgeons are perfecting ways to get patients back on their feet.

“I started doing ankle replacements in 1998 and the first generation devices really kind of went by the wayside. They were mostly for people with rheumatoid arthritis, very limited function,” says Dr. George Markovich, an orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Markovich was on the cutting edge of ankle surgery.

“The second-generation devices were better, but still had some issues in terms of wound healing.”

But improved technology sparked a new era in ankle replacement.

“The third generation has been, I think, a significant advance because of the better alignment. There are better tools to put the implants in the right place. And there’s more anatomic modularity to the prosthesis so that it doesn’t have as much wound healing problems and it just works better,” says Dr. Markovich.

New techniques couldn’t come fast enough. Demand is expected to grow as more and more baby boomers hobble into theirs sixties and seventies with debilitating ankle pain.

Age caught up with Garry Fellows’ ankle.

“Numerous injuries, younger playing and doing crazy things that you shouldn’t do and you pay for it later,” says Gary.

He decided to take a stab at surgery.

“This particular technique involves a mechanical jig and part of that is to place the foot in precise alignment and that requires a lot of pinning and making another incision in the bottom of the foot to bring the rod up to get your alignment right,” says Dr. Markovich.

Following the complex operation, Gary is a walking endorsement.

Thirty years of perfecting the ankle replacement, is helping people get back on solid ground.