Generally, brief aches and pains are expected the older you get. But if your foot or ankle pain lasts for more than a few days, and rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, or elevating the foot or ankle haven’t helped, it’s time to call your podiatrist to have things checked out. “People don’t give their feet much thought until their feet hurt. Your feet are the foundation of your body, and if your feet hurt or they’re out of alignment, that can get your whole body out of alignment. Happy feet mean a happy person.” Dr. Ben Blodgett, board-certified podiatrist with East Tennessee Medical Group said.
“There’s a whole scope of podiatry that is not very well known. There’s a breadth and scope of our practice that is much more than taking care of nails or callouses. Our community needs to know that we can treat anything from the lower leg down. We treat a variety of diagnoses and pathologies -- fractures, sprains, tears, any injuries or wounds -- but I also can fully reconstruct a person’s foot if it’s needed,” Blodgett explained. “I focused heavily on surgical reconstruction during residency. I do procedures that aren’t as common, such as toe and ankle replacements, where severe arthritis is replaced with a prosthetic joint, much like knees, hips or shoulders. That’s not a common practice here yet, but it’s something I enjoy quite a bit,“ Blodgett added.
The number of ankle joint replacements performed each year in the United States is increasing. An ankle replacement can improve ankle motion, improve walking gait and preserve the structure of the joint. It is preferred over ankle fusion surgery, which permanently connects the foot to the lower leg, making it no longer moveable. “With ankle pain, a thorough exam is performed, and X-rays usually are taken. If degeneration is shown in the ankle joint or if the pain has lasted a while and other conservative measures have been taken but have not been effective, then an ankle replacement may be an option,” Blodgett explained.
Typically to qualify, there must be evidence of degeneration, the patient needs to be age 50 or older, cannot be morbidly obese and cannot have plans to participate in high impact activities such as running. An ankle replacement is not best for people with weakened ankle ligaments or misaligned bones, or who may have nerve damage from other medical conditions. After surgery, there is two-week period of no weight bearing in which you stay off the foot or ankle but may use crutches or a knee scooter. After that two-week period, you’ll use a walking boot for a month, then gradually get back to normal activities. Ten-year success rates are in the range of 90 percent for ankle replacements.
“I’ve had my own foot problems, and I know how important feet are to the well-being of the rest of the body. Feet can sideline people from being active and healthy. To be able to help people reach their goal to feel and move better is very satisfying,” Blodgett said.
For more information about ankle replacements, foot or ankle pain, or to make an appointment with Dr. Blodgett, call East Tennessee Medical Group at 865-984-3864.