Sonnin Dahl endured more than a year of pain before she had an ankle bone replaced at Mercy Regional Medical Center, one of a few hospitals in the country offering the procedure.
Dahl’s talus, the bone that allows the ankle to move up and down, had died from lack of blood supply after it broke, a condition called avascular necrosis, said Dr. Doug Lucas, an orthopedic surgeon with Mercy Orthopedic Associates. The condition is painful because the bones around the talus start to suffer and arthritis develops, he said.
Dahl, 46, is not sure exactly how or when her talus broke because the injury was one of a long list of foot and ankle problems. Dahl has struggled with her feet since she was in her 20s and needed four surgeries to correct her flat-foot deformity, a condition that resulted in both arches of her feet falling flat, she said.
“You end up with broken bones and pulled tendons. Just everything is in the wrong place and over-stressed,” she said.
She also had a surgery to stabilize her fractured talus before it died.
People with a dead talus face limited options. Some have their talus fused to their heel and/or leg bone, which can limit their mobility. They can also have their foot amputated and use a prosthesis, Lucas said.
Lucas suggested a third option to Dahl. She could go to Duke University Health System and see Dr. Selene Parekh, who replaces ankle bones with 3D-printed implants.
But going to North Carolina for surgery would have been a challenge for Dahl for a variety of reasons, including, at minimum, a nine-day stay out of state.
After researching the option, Dahl and another one of Lucas’ patients asked if the doctor could do the surgery at Mercy.
Image Credit: Jerry McBride / Durango Herald