OAA Patient Ambassador: Meet Debra

June 03, 2016

Meet Debra – our June Patient Ambassador, a certified financial planner, and one of the few people with a total Debra - Total Ankle Replacement Patientankle replacement. In 2007, Debra broke her ankle in four places and had to have reconstructive surgery. Due to the nature of her injury, her surgeon told her that she would likely have issues with her ankle in the future. Flash forward to the 2015, and Debra came to OAA Orthopaedic Specialists with significant ankle pain associated with post-traumatic arthritis.

The ankle is critical for mobility, and as a result, Debra’s life was significantly impacted by her ankle pain. So much so that she had to alter her lifestyle to the point where there was little she could do: “I did very little. I was limited to basic things like laundry, grocery shopping, and business appointments,” Debra recalled. She had to give up a lot of the things she enjoyed, including dancing, vacationing on cruises, and going to live music shows. After nonsurgical treatment options failed, she was directed to Dr. Dean Sorrento of OAA’s Foot and Ankle Institute for a possible total ankle replacement – something Debra, and many other people, have never heard of.

Millions of people affected by arthritis routinely receive total knee, hip, and shoulder replacements, but a less common joint replacement is the ankle. In fact, Dr. Sorrento is one of the few surgeons in the region that perform total ankle replacements. Until recently, patients with ankle arthritis that required surgery were limited to one surgical option – a fusion. While this treatment option reduces pain, it restricts the ankle’s mobility. A total ankle replacement is designed to allow a reduction in pain without a decrease in range of motion. For this reason, the national number of total ankle replacements are on the rise, while the number of fusions are decreasing.

Dr. Sorrento is board certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and holds advanced Dr. Dean Sorrentocertifications in foot surgery, as well as reconstructive rearfoot and ankle surgery. To be able to perform ankle replacements, surgeons must qualify to take advanced certification courses for each specific ankle implant they wish to use. Dr. Sorrento believed that Debra was a good candidate for an ankle replacement given her age, medical status, and lack of any severe ankle deformity. When asked what the typical recovery from a total ankle replacement looks like, Dr. Sorrento shared, “Typical recovery is six weeks of nonweight-bearing, followed by a cast boot and physical therapy. Walking with a shoe usually takes approximately eight to ten weeks.”

Outside of Dr. Sorrento’s surgical abilities, Debra credits a large portion of her success to her physical therapy regime. Knowing that therapy would be a big component of the healing process, Debra sought out care from Priority Physical Therapy, where she benefited from individualized physical therapy. This allowed her to have a one on one relationship with a physical therapist that came to know her ankle, her progression, and her abilities very well.

Reflecting back on her experiences with Dr. Sorrento, Debra recalled him being very informative, “Dr. Sorrento knew exactly what was going to happen before and after surgery, and explained that the ankle replacement was made specifically to fit me perfectly. The implant was selected based on a CT scan of my ankle to ensure a proper fit,” Debra recalled. When asked what advice she would give someone with joint pain Debra knowingly stated, “Have a consult at least. Knowledge is only dangerous if you don’t have it. Ask yourself, how much are you worth to invest in yourself?”

Debra’s surgery was in December, and she already feels as though she has regained a lot of the life she had to forgo prior to her surgery. “I am back to going out with my friends and having a social life. In fact, I just went to a rocking Pink Floyd tribute concert.” Debra is also happy she had a total ankle replacement because she was able to dance with her godson at his wedding just last month. While Debra is regaining a social life she patiently awaits being able to walk her black lab and adding her beloved high heels back into her wardrobe - two goals that she will attain in the very near future.  

“OAA Orthopaedic Specialists is pleased to offer this technology to patients suffering from ankle arthritis,” says Dr. Sorrento. “In the past patients would only have one option – an ankle fusion. Research has documented the fact that preserving motion of the ankle reduces stress on surrounding joints. This makes it an increasingly more popular option for those suffering from ankle arthritis, and it is very gratifying to see patients, like Debra, with pain resolved and function restored.”