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Published on June 12, 2018

Total ankle replacement surgery offers pain relief for Boston patients

by Emily Reimer

First aired on Channel 5 WCVB

BOSTON — The procedure may be less well-known than a hip or knee replacement, but Boston surgeons are now performing total ankle replacements. For some patients, it provides relief from years of pain.

On a scale of one to 10, Jimmy Mello's pain scored consistently on the high end.

"I was living with probably like a six. Every day," Mello said.

In 2011, Mello broke his ankle in three places, and he went through several surgeries to repair the damage, but was still struggling. At one point, a doctor told him he'd have to amputate his foot.

Then, he was referred to Dr. Phil Basile, chief of podiatric surgery at Mount Auburn Hospital. Basile to0k a look at Mello's X-rays and suggested a total ankle replacement.

"It's really revolutionized what we're doing," Basile said.

Ankle replacement surgery isn't new, but the process and the implants have improved dramatically in the last seven to eight years.

"We actually have CAT scans we do before the surgery, and the computer generates the perfect implant for that patient. In the older generation implants, it would take me almost three hours to do an ankle replacement. Now, I'm doing them in an hour and a half because of this pre-operative guidance," Basile said.

Basile said the process is similar to a knee replacement.

"So, we have to resurface the bone in the foot, resurface the bone in the tibia and then put the plastic shock absorber, if you will, in between there," Basile said.

Mello underwent the procedure in February of 2017. His pain is essentially gone, and he said it feels like he has his life back.

"It has been great. Since I broke the ankle, it's been the best year I've had," Mello said.

Recovery time can vary though most patients are back to normal activity in about three months. However, high-impact activities like running are no longer an option. Low-impact activities, such as walking or skiing, are approved after a full recovery.

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