Orthopedic surgeon Paul Cooper, MD, says, “In the 12 years I’ve been a foot and ankle surgeon, this is the most exciting thing I’ve been able to offer my patients.”
Called alograft ankle transplant, Dr. Cooper can use the ankle of a cadaver to replace an ankle damaged by arthritis or trauma.
Dr. Cooper said, “ This gives people age 20-50 or people who are overweight a new option. Our old method was to fuse the ankle or wait until the patient was 55 to perform an ankle replacement. Now we have a method, which is not as traumatic or extensive a surgery as an ankle replacement. There is no organ rejection, so patients do not need to be on anti-rejection medications after surgery.”
The way it works is Dr. Cooper cuts out the area of the damaged ankle, then cuts out the same area of the cadaver ankle. He then fits them together like pieces of a puzzle. The surgery takes about an hour.
“The other nice thing about this procedure is that even though we don’t know the life expectancy of the new ankle, we haven’t burned bridges in terms of future treatments. We can still go back and put in an artificial ankle replacement or fuse the ankle later if necessary we have to,” Dr. Cooper said.
“The metal and plastic artificial ankle replacements have been available in the United States for the past five years. Although preliminary reports indicated a 92% survivorship of the implant, recent reports have not been as encouraging,” Dr. Cooper said.
“Outcomes vary, with the ideal patients being over age 55, less active and not overweight. This leaves few options, other than fusion, for younger people with advanced arthritis. This procedure of using a cadaver ankle fills that need. Early reports with Allograft ankle replacements at Georgetown have shown marked improvement in pain, flexibility and gait. To date, a 100% graft acceptance has been noted.”