First local 'total ankle replacement' surgery

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A bit of history unfolded Thursday morning in the Ark-La-Tex which promises to help relieve constant pain for some patients.  We ventured inside the operating room for Shreveport-Bossier's first-ever 'total ankle replacement.'

Dr. Stephen Cox, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Specialists Hospital Shreveport moved the patient's foot back and forth before instructing, "you can see she's got good motion."  Inside the operating room, Dr. Cox spoke to us as he performed the first full ankle replacement in the area.  "I think it's fantastic for her because it gets her out of pain and keeps her motion, that's the advantage versus ankle fusion," continued Cox.

The patient: 55-year old Flora Jenkins of Texarkana, Texas, whose husband awaited nervously for results.  "She was ready to have this surgery," revealed Flora's husband Dennis.  He decribed how constant pain restricted her life more and more. "she would basically go to church and go to work and that's basically all that she would be able to do."

Dr. Cox showed us the new ankle and pointed, "this is plastic or a polyethelyne spacer.  Then you have a metal piece in what's in the tail end."  X-rays helped capture the scope of the surgery, as a technician pointed to the image saying, "this is the stem, the titanium stem that actually gives you the fixation."

This may be the first total ankle replacement surgery locally, but it is not going to be the last.  In fact, while there's not a waiting list, they do expect to do similar procedures in the near future.  But, this is not for everyone.  "The fusion is still kind of the gold standard.  I mean, it's tried and true and been around a long time," said Dr. Cox.

The drawback to ankle fusion:  Loss of mobility.  But that's still the only viable option for some patients.  Dr. Cox concluded, "people who have a significant deformity or somebody who has what's called AVM, where they have a lot of collapse of one of the bones of the ankle, it's hard to make-up for that loss of bone."

Dr. Cox said Flora Jenkins new ankle will last her well over a decade without that old pain.  The procedure first became available two and a half years ago and is now widely performed in many parts of the country.