Synthetic cartilage is a new trend in orthopedic surgery

9NEWS took an inside look at how this works.

KUSA - Cynthia Wax said climbing and running are things she never thought she would never do again.

“I had severe arthritis in my big toe joint and I had surgery on that toe seven years ago,” said Wax.

She says after surgery she was still in constant pain.

“When you live with pain you are always worried about where you are going to be where you are going to sit if it's going to hold up other people, it limits your activity,” said Wax. 

An orthopedic surgeon in Boulder said synthetic cartilage is an option people have to help remove pain and still have movement in their feet.

And a year ago, Wax met Dr. Robert Leeland - that orthopedic surgeon.

“He gave me three options, one of those being we could try a fusion we could try and new implant r we could just leave well enough alone,” Wax said.

Instead of putting metal rods into her foot she decided to give Cartiva a try. It's a new synthetic cartilage that is implanted into the big toe.

“This material is used as a means to replace the joint space when arthritis has set in,” said Leeland.

He said a fusion procedure is more popular but it limits movement to the toe and this option acts as cartilage - allowing the toe to move with the rest of the foot.

“One of the advantages to this is there is less bone removed,” Leeland said.

He said the main goal of the surgery is to limit pain, which is what Wax said the procedure did for her.

Now, she's able to get back to her active lifestyle.

“I literally was walking up mountains and would not have been able to do that had I not had the surgery,” said Wax.

Leeland said the implant can cost $3,000 - $4,000, but most patients are covered by their insurance.

Right now, the FDA has approved implants for the big toe but Leeland said it could be offered in knees and hips in the future.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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