The Ankle: The Last Frontier in Replaceable Body Parts

New York Times—June 20, 2008

Joint replacement surgeries are becoming more and more commonplace as solutions to cartilage damage and soreness associated with damage to the joint. Knees and hips can be switched out for metal-and-plastic prostheses that enable recipients to have a longer active lifestyle.

But the ankle — the joint that takes a lot of wear-and-tear from both athletic and everyday uses — has yet to have an artificial replacement. Not for lack of trying, according to Dr. John G. Kennedy, clinical director of the running clinic in the gait laboratory at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

“In the world of replaceable body parts, the ankle has been the last frontier,” Kennedy said. “Granted, we do have ankle replacements…. However, the replacement ankles are not where they should be technologically when compared with the knee and hip replacements currently available.”

Researchers are working on solving the question of what to do with problem ankles and hope to have a non-traditional prosthesis ready in due time.

“Total ankle replacement is certainly an area we are researching. We are currently investigating biological alternatives to traditional metal and polyethylene inserts,” Kennedy said. “My colleague Dr. Jonathan Deland, chief of the foot and ankle service at the Hospital for Special Surgery, has been working on a revolutionary new total ankle design that will be anatomically similar to the ankle joint,” he added.

For more information on replacement ankles and advice on sprains and strains, read the Q&A in it’s entirety at NYTimes.com.

To learn more about the groundbreaking treatments Dr. Kennedy and other HSS specialists are performing for ankle injuries, read Ignoring a sprained ankle can become a bigger pain later in life.

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