PHOENIX -- Almost 800,000 hip and knee replacements are performed in the United States each year. Now doctors are replacing ankles, too. A Valley woman took advantage of the surgery and found she got relief without sacrificing her everyday activities.
“I would go home at night and it was like tears would come to my eyes because the pain would be so bad,” Delores Del Mastro said.
Del Mastro suffered with ankle pain for years. She had severe arthritis in her left ankle.
“My life as I knew it, as I lived it, as the person I am, is 100 percent over for me,” Del Mastro said.
That is how the 69-year-old felt after being told she would need to get an ankle fusion. It’s a surgery where the ankle joint bones grow together.
“It takes away the pain but also takes away the motion, as well,” Dr. Jason Lake said.
While ankle fusion is a standard treatment, Del Mastro wanted a second opinion. Lake, who is with Banner Gateway Medical Center, told her she was a candidate for an ankle replacement.
“Incision is made and the bone is removed off the end of the tibia and top of the talus, just a few millimeters of bone,” Lake said. “You want to preserve as much bone as possible and then the implants are placed.”
“The plastic piece in the middle floats freely and the thought behind that is it allows more normal motion of the ankle,” Lake continued. “And with more normal motion and less stress, because it has more freedom, the thought is it will last longer and wear out more slowly.”
Lake uses one of the current FDA-approved implants. The results show that 90 percent last at least 10 years.
“Ankle replacement is much better for someone who is looking to walk, hike, travel up and down hills, swim, as well as normal-day activities,” Lake said. “I want to do it in low-demand patients, typically patients over 60 maybe 55.”
Del Mastro had her surgery back in December. Two and a half months after getting the ankle replacement and rehab she was wearing heels.
“I can bake all day and cook all day,” Del Mastro said. “I can take my dog for a walk in the park. We go everywhere. It doesn't stop us from doing anything.”
Right now about 4,500 ankle replacements are performed each year.
For more information go to Banner Gateway Medical Center.