As a young man, David, now in his late 60s, admits he was a bit of a daredevil, influenced by the stunt performers of his childhood. “My poor mother,” he recalled, as he reflected on his passion for motocross, a motorcycle racing sport on rough terrain. He suffered a number of accidents and actually broke his ankle three times. The final incident – getting full-force T-boned by another motorcyclist – resulted in a crushed right ankle, a fusion surgery, and doctors throwing away pieces of his bone. Three decades later, he would undergo 3D ankle reconstruction surgery to finally solve his problem.
Read on to see how Steven Jasonowicz, DPM, turned Dave’s life around with advanced technology that allowed him to 3D print the bone he was missing.
Dave’s Fused But Painful Ankle
“Dave had a severe ankle fracture years ago that was so bad it eventually required fusion of his ankle joint,” says Dr. Jasonowicz. “Unfortunately, when his ankle joint was fused, it was fused in a position turned inward (referred to as varus) resulting in chronic pain as Dave was walking abnormally on the outside of his foot.”
At that time – in the 1980s – that was the best that medical science had to offer Dave. Ankle reconstruction surgery wasn’t yet available. But being the active person he is, Dave had a difficult time walking normally and doing all the things he loved.
“This abnormal position began causing more issues, starting his search for other options,” Dr. Jasonowicz said.
As Dave looked around for solutions from various doctors he hoped could perform ankle reconstruction surgery, he saw a specialist who wanted to put a rod through his leg.
“A lot of people get into car accidents and break their ankles and they have a bar put up their leg and they walk like a penguin,” Dave said. “I didn’t want that. It’s prehistoric to me.”
Finding an Expert Surgeon for Ankle Surgery
Dave had an appointment with his primary care physician who told him that there was a doctor he should go visit for ankle reconstruction surgery.
“It was Dr. Jasonowicz,” said Dave. “He was exactly what I was looking for. I was holding out for the best and newest technology. I didn’t want to suffer anymore.”
Dr. Jasonowicz is an IBJI podiatric foot and ankle surgeon who diagnoses and treats the full spectrum of foot and ankle disorders.
Dave’s Life Prior to Ankle Reconstruction Surgery
Other doctors prescribed pain medications, but daily doses of ibuprofen, and later gabapentin, took a toll on Dave’s kidneys. He knew he needed a solution and it finally came with ankle reconstruction surgery.
Dave took pain medication for years but no longer
needs it thanks to 3D ankle reconstruction surgery.
A business owner, Dave spent years traveling back and forth to Florida limited by pain. Long terminals at the airport led him to do a fair amount of walking, which was excruciating. It had gotten so bad, he didn’t know how he would continue. Because of the awkward roll of his ankle, he had to purchase new shoes every four months.
Imagine walking for years on a severely rotated ankle.
Dave needed ankle reconstruction surgery to finally
resolve his ankle pain.
“I live at Lake Point Tower in Chicago and I couldn’t even walk down the hallway without it being on fire,” he recalls. “My ankle was so cocked over to one side. They were going to give me an ankle brace before I finally met Dr. Jasonowicz.”
Dr. Jasonowicz Discusses 3D Ankle Reconstruction Surgery
“Traditionally, a malpositioned fusion like this requires bracing or special shoes to accommodate and support the deformity,” Dr. Jasonowicz said. “Dave had seen other foot and ankle surgeons who recommended either finding a way to live with the position of his ankle or another fusion surgery to straighten his ankle and fuse other joints in the foot as well. While this is a good option for some patients, Dave wanted to restore the motion in his joint.”
When he initially came in to see Dr. Jasonowicz, he learned about all of his available options, including revision fusion surgery and 3D ankle reconstruction surgery. Dr. Jasonowicz’s philosophy and approach are on patient education and prevention.
“Technology with foot and ankle implants has come a long way recently,” Dr. Jasonowicz says. “We now have the ability in complex situations like this to make custom 3D-printed implants specific to individual patients and their deformity.”
Dave was very enthusiastic about using the latest technology. He was 100% on board with trying a 3D implant to fix his ankle and patiently waited several weeks for the part to come in.
How Dave’s Ankle Was Recreated Using 3D Printing
Dave’s left ankle was used as a model and cast and then flipped to create the missing bone for his right ankle. Dave’s contralateral left ankle was imaged using a CT, then engineers and software were used to recreate what his normal right ankle anatomy should look like. This resulted in perfectly symmetrical ankles post-surgery, and that allowed him to walk evenly again for the first time in three decades. Dave is one of a small but growing number of patients to undergo ankle reconstruction surgery like this.
In this X-ray of Dave's ankle, you can see the new parts
that enabled him to walk correctly for the first time
in more than three decades.
“While ankle replacement surgery has also advanced over the years both in the technology/implants we use, the number of patients having ankle replacement surgery has also increased,” Dr. Jasonowicz says. “In some situations, patients who previously had an ankle fusion can have the fusion taken down and the joint replaced. While a fusion takedown is a complex surgery, the principle is fairly simple.”
Prepping for Ankle Reconstruction Surgery
Dave was excited to undergo the surgery and was pleased with the constant communication via texts with Dr. Jasonowicz.
“He kept me up to speed all the time and the girls in the office helped me out,” Dave recalls.
On August 31, 2022, Dave arrived at Sherman Hospital in Elgin where he underwent his ankle reconstruction surgery followed by one overnight stay.
“They let me go home the next day, my daughter came to get me, and I stayed with her for a week in Barrington,” Dave says.
After that, Dave got a knee scooter so he could easily navigate the city of Chicago and his condo.
“The first week was okay,” he said. “I am really good at crutches since I’d been on them before, but I really liked the knee scooter.”
Getting Back to Work After Ankle Reconstruction Surgery
Dave needed to travel to Florida, so he booked a flight three and a half weeks after his ankle reconstruction surgery. Near the end of September, he was on a plane with a walking cast. Dr. Jasonowicz told him to loosen his boot a bit to accommodate for swelling that occurs with altitude differences.
“I had no problem and was taking pain medication which was then stepped down,” said Dave. “I was thinking to myself, ‘this is pretty incredible.’ I had a knee replaced and I felt like my knee took longer to heal than this ankle.”
Twelve Weeks Following Ankle Reconstruction Surgery
Other than some mild stiffness in the morning, Dave is pain-free, feeling good, and has full mobility.
“I can walk anywhere,” he says. “It is like I have a new ankle. There’s no clicking, nothing weird. Everything healed so well. All the stitches are perfect.”
One noteworthy benefit for Dave is a simple move we all do, but take for granted.
“I can push the gas pedal down,” he says. “I haven’t been able to do that in 45 years.”
Recommending Dr. Jasonowicz to Other Patients
Dave says he is not surprised that everyone at the hospital where he had surgery loves working with Dr. Jasonowicz.
“I just can’t impress upon you how improved my ankle is and how great the doctor was,” he says. “This guy is straight-up great. I am not taking any pain pills. My ankle is perfectly straight. My heel is flat on the ground.”
This follow-up visit photo shows how Dave's heels are
symmetrical, flat, and straight, thanks to 3D ankle
At a recent visit, Dave was asked to do some bending at the knee to check his flexibility. He has good range of motion and is excited to talk to anyone who will listen about the technology used to fix his ankle.
“Dr. Jasonowicz is the real deal and I really want to help him get the word out,” he said. “What he did is truly amazing.”
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