No one could accuse Susan Gibson of sitting on the sidelines. During her
36 years as a traveling nurse, she had the opportunity to live in many
places. When she wasn’t delivering babies for high risk mothers,
she enjoyed local adventures, such as swimming with dolphins while stationed
in Hawaii. After retiring, she became a full-time nanny for her three
She did it all with physical setbacks, including an ankle injury from a
roller blading accident decades ago. “My ankle joint popped out
to the opposite side,” says Gibson.
A doctor stabilized the joint with a pin. That solution improved the function
of her joint and relieved the pain in her ankle for several decades. As
often happens after an ankle injury, however, arthritis eventually set
in. Once again, Gibson couldn’t walk without significant pain. When
standard pain relief methods such as ice and anti-inflammatory medications
didn't help, she began researching surgical treatment options."
Searching for Relief
One option was ankle fusion (arthrodesis). During this procedure, a surgeon
cleans the worn joint and fuses the bones together with screws, plates
and bone graft. Ankle fusion relieves pain, but limits range of motion,
which can lead to further wear and tear and arthritis in the surrounding
joints of the foot and ankle. Another option, ankle replacement surgery
(arthroplasty), replaces the joint’s damaged bone and cartilage
with an ankle prosthesis. This prosthesis mimics ankle movement, allowing
better range of motion, a more natural gait, less pain and less chance
of recurring arthritis. “I wanted to easily walk onto the soccer
field with my grandkids without being in pain and a solution that would
last for many more years. So I chose ankle replacement,” Gibson says.
A Trusted Surgeon
Once Gibson found the treatment she preferred, she needed to find the right
surgeon. A fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon,
Jake Porter, III, M.D., MPH specializes in foot and ankle surgery at
Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery. He trained under five surgeons during his year-long foot and ankle fellowship
at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
If anyone understands the importance of doctor-patient relationships, it’s
Gibson. “I’ve been around doctors for 36 years. I researched
Dr. Porter and I liked his skills and his gentle bedside manner. He spent
time with me and listened.”
What Makes a Good Candidate?
According to Porter, “A person may need ankle replacement surgery
to treat painful arthritis caused by a dislocation, fracture or rheumatoid
Regardless of cause, patients must meet certain criteria:
- Active lifestyle, but not engaged in high impact sports
- Good range of motion
- Healthy weight
- Good circulation
- No previous ankle fusion
- No co-morbidities increasing infection risk
- No significant bone deformity
- Patient is willing to follow physician instructions
“We can identify which patients will have the best outcomes and measure
patients pre-operatively, so the procedures are shorter. As with hip and
knee replacements, the prostheses used in ankle replacements don’t
last forever. If a revision is needed, the prostheses we use spare enough
bone to perform a second surgery,” explains Porter.
Managing Recovery and Expectations
Arthroplasty requires patients to wear a cast for three to six weeks following
surgery versus the 10 to 12 weeks required following an ankle fusion.
Physical therapy is also needed. Though replacement is meant to maintain,
not gain, range of motion, most patients return to active lifestyles.
“For certain patients, ankle replacement is a game changer. It increases
mobility and relieves pain,” says Porter.
As for Gibson, she couldn’t be happier. “I can’t say
enough good about Dr. Porter. More people need to consider the positives
of this surgery. I have zero pain and look forward to visiting Europe
To schedule a consultation with Porter, or to learn more about the services
Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery, call 912-466-7340 or visit