Avera Medical Minute AMcK: New treatment for joint pain sufferers

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More than 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis. A new synthetic cartilage implant is helping to alleviate that pain from joint pain sufferers.

“It was 24/7 pain,” said Denise Nelson of Sioux Falls.

Nelson lives a very active lifestyle. She teaches yoga and enjoys exercising. But arthritis in her big toe joint was making everyday activities next to impossible.

“Teaching yoga, I wouldn’t put my foot all the way down. I’d put all my weight on my other side, so then I started to shift my hips the wrong way. The way I walked down the street, I started to walk on the outside of my foot -- so then I started to get pain on the outside. At night, sleeping, I couldn’t even put a sheet on top of that foot because it hurt so bad. There was nothing that I could do except for maybe ice it and elevate,” said Nelson.

“We’re just going to check the range of motion in your big toe joint,” said Dr. Brian Dix, podiatrist with Avera Medical Group Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Sioux Falls.

Nelson turned to Dr. Dix for help. He determined she was a good candidate for surgery using a synthetic cartilage implant called ‘Cartiva.’ Cartiva mimics actual cartilage and is placed into the big toe joint.

Dr. Dix says Cartiva is for patients who have bad arthritis in their big toe joint without a bunion and have tried conservative therapies.

"The procedure involves an incision on the top of the big toe and the tendon is then moved out of the way and the arthritis on top of the big toe is removed. And then there’s usually a cartilage defect in the center of the big toe joint which is then reamed out and the implant is then placed in the first metatarsal head,” said Dr. Dix.

This serves as an alternative to ‘big toe fusion.’

“And with a big toe fusion, the big toe is fused and never moves again. And traditionally you have to stay off that for six to eight weeks before you can walk,” said Dr. Dix.

Implanting Cartiva is less invasive and recovery is substantially less.

“It bent more right after the surgery than it had in three years. My toe could bend up. And when you teach yoga, you have to be able to go up on your toes and put the weight on there and I couldn’t do that. And I could do it right away. Dr. Dix was amazing. He was like, how have you been living with this pain? You don’t have to live this way. And that’s what people need to know -- you don’t have to live this way,” said Nelson.

Nelson was back on her feet within 24 hours of surgery.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.