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Podiatric Surgeon at NBIMC Performs One of New Jersey's First Total Ankle Replacements Using a System that Allows Full Flexation

Marshall Cooper, DPM, director of the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Podiatric Residency Program and chief of podiatric surgery, recently performed one of New Jersey’s first total ankle replacements using the first mobile bearing, three component system to allow patients full flexation of the ankle after surgery. The new surgery is an alternative to ankle fusion surgery, which offers limited mobility post surgery, and an improvement on prior ankle replacement systems which required cement to hold them in the proper position.

Dr. Cooper used The STAR (Scandinavian Total Ankle Replacement) for the procedure, and looks forward to using it with other patients.

“I wasn’t happy with the previous results of ankle fusion on patients, especially the difficulty they had walking after the procedure, and I thought there had to be a better way,” says Dr. Cooper. “Using the new implants, patients have much greater mobility and a better quality of life.”

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Pain-Free Living after Two Years of Agony

The 2 ½ hour procedure, performed on 58-year-old Evelyn Harris on August 10, has resulted in pain-free living for the Newark resident instead of the constant pain of bone worn down to bone due to her rheumatoid arthritis.

“It was a pain that I could not bear,” relates Ms. Harris, who had previously been on around the clock pain medication and has now been pain-free since her surgery. “I wish I had it done a long time ago. I can actually sleep at night now. I sleep like a baby.”

Dr. Cooper recalls that each time he saw Ms. Harris before the procedure, she was crying, due to her condition. For at least two years she lived with extreme, disabling pain. Now, on the road to recovery, Ms. Harris has had her cast removed and will go through four to six weeks of physical therapy and is expected to have a full recovery.

“I am very happy,” says Ms. Harris. “I am like a new person.”

A total ankle replacement is joint replacement surgery where the ankle joint is replaced with an artificial implant. Total ankle replacements have been available for more than 30 years, but early ankle replacement designs had only two components and required bone cement to hold them in proper position. Newer designs don't require cement -- instead, bone grows into the ankle prosthesis similar to knee replacements.

The new procedure is also an improvement on ankle fusion surgery, which creates a fixed position by fusing the bones of the joint completely, making one continuous bone, and limiting mobility.

For The STAR procedure, two holes are drilled into the long bone of the ankle, and the implant, a combination of metal and high grade polyethylene, slides into place, and then the surgeon seals the holes.

“The new implant is very successful,” says Dr. Cooper. “There is no cement, the fit is very natural, and it is placed directly into the bone.”

Common conditions that lead to total ankle replacement include rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder, osteoarthritis, due to aging and wear and tear on a joint, and post-traumatic arthritis, caused by the wearing out of a joint that has had any kind of physical injury.

For more information about this procedure, please call 1-888-SBHS-123. Or call the NBIMC Department of Surgery at 973-926-7330.

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