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Walking Tall
Ankle replacement ends painful experience


June 2014

Dr. Brian C. Law with his ankle replacement device.

Years of ankle pain nearly grounded Eric Swenson, a commercial pilot who works international routes for a major airline. Then he met Dr. Brian C. Law, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. Law did ankle replacement surgery that not only allowed Swenson to resume everyday activities but also saved his career.

"Iím very happy I did it," says Swenson, now 51, who had the surgery in December 2012. Many people have never heard of ankle replacements. Just 25,000 a year are performed in the United States, compared with 330,000 hip and 600,000-plus knee replacements. Most ankle replacement patients are in their 60s or 70s.

"Ankles just arenít as often arthritic as knees and hips," Law says. "What causes most ankle arthritis is trauma ó a fracture, a lot of bad sprains, instability or unusual stress due to a deformity such as very, very high arches."

Swenson canít say why his left ankle became problematic, but he thinks the strain of a bad right knee (which was replaced in 2010) might have been a factor. One doctor recommended fusion surgery, which would have limited the range of motion in his ankle.

While an artificial ankle can wear out in 10 to 15 years, Swenson isnít worried about that right now. Heís happy to once again walk pain-free through airports, and to enjoy hunting, hiking and bicycling near his new home in Dallas.

"I would recommend it to anybody whoís willing to go through the recovery process and work at getting better," says Swenson, who followed up his course of physical therapy with regular weight training at a gym.

Innovative technology enhances surgeon-patient communication

"Thank you for letting me take care of you," said Dr. William Pennington of Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital. But he didnít say it directly to Susan Dawicke, a 68-year-old resident of Franklin who had arthroscopic shoulder surgery this fall. He spoke to her by video, filmed in the operating room while still wearing his scrubs.

The video was sent in a password-protected email the day after her surgery, along with pictures from her procedure and postoperative instructions for her recovery. Dawicke was "floored." "The video was absolutely amazing. It was so personal. This is the new way of medicine," Dawicke says.

Pennington and others at MOSH are some of the first in the nation to use Synergy by Arthrex, a company that develops medical products to advance minimally invasive orthopedic procedures. Synergy, an imaging platform, was launched in February 2012, and integrates high-definition cameras, LED lighting and an image management system with an iPad application.

With Synergy, surgeons can immediately review, edit, annotate and transmit photos, videos and information. Confidential patient images and reports are stored on an encrypted cloud server that is HIPAA compliant.

"The Synergy product can create a better rapport with our patients," says Dr. Eric Pifel. "This technology enhances patient interactions weíve already had and improves satisfaction."

Pennington points out that the goal is not just to make patients happy. "Itís about relationships, creating trust to reduce anxiety," he says.

Dawicke was most impressed with the accessibility. Everything she might need was at her fingertips, for future reference or to share with her other doctors.

"This experience made my opinion more positive," she adds. "I am very pleased with the hospital and doctors, but Iíve never seen anything like this follow-up before. The technology takes it up another level."

 - Melissa McGraw


This story ran in the June 2014 issue of: