Twinkle Toes

Implant surgery has dance enthusiast back in step.

For more than 50 years, nursing was Suzie Matthews’ chosen profession. She loved her work, serving as both a private duty nurse and a hospital nurse. Her passion, however, has always been for dancing. Any kind of dancing.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Suzie trips the light fantastic.

Now 71 years young and retired, Suzie has long had an affinity for ballroom dancing, which she’s done for 45 years. She also feeds her insatiable desire through line dancing, Polynesian dancing, even flamenco dancing.
“I will always dance,” Suzie explains. “I just love it. You put the music on and I start, and I just can’t stop. But I don’t want to stop. I could live my life on a dance floor. I kind of hope that I will die on a dance floor.”
Dancing has helped Suzie stay fit and young at heart. There are a few drawbacks associated with her hobby, however. The havoc it can wreak on someone’s feet – or in Suzie’s case, her right big toe – happens to be one of them.
“You wear heels quite a bit when you dance, and I think from wearing the heels and all the dancing, the joint in that toe just wore out,” Suzie offers. “I first noticed it after I bought three brand-new pairs of dance shoes recently and I couldn’t wear them.
“I was thinking, What is wrong with my foot? I thought it was the shoes at first, but then I realized that no matter what shoes I wore, or even if I didn’t wear shoes, that toe hurt. So I thought, Well, I’ve got to do something about this.”
The pain in Suzie’s big toe prompted a search for a foot doctor to correct the problem. She began by asking friends if they knew of a good podiatrist. Eventually, one friend suggested she see Steven Anthony, DO, at Advanced Orthopedic Center.
Upon meeting her and hearing about her ailment, Dr. Anthony began his work with Suzie by taking an x-ray of her foot. Even before that, he had a good idea of what was causing her pain. The big bump on her right big toe was what gave it away: arthritis.
“She had a bone spur, which is a calcium deposit,” Dr. Anthony explains. “A calcium deposit develops when the toe joint is worn out and the bones grind together. The body doesn’t like that, so it intentionally grows bone spurs to limit the up-and-down motion of the toe because that is the pain generator.

Here’s the Rub

“What happens is, bone spurs grow wild. Every time it gets hit or rubbed on by the shoes you’re wearing, it grows bigger. It’s a negative cycle, and in Suzie’s case, her bone spur had grown so big that she could no longer wear shoes without them rubbing on it and making it worse.”
Depending on the patient’s activity level and lifestyle, a bone spur and the kind of arthritis that Suzie had can be treated by simply wearing a pair of shoes or sandals that don’t irritate the spur.
In other cases, an insert can be placed in the shoe that prevents the toe from bending. In more severe cases, a cortisone injection can be performed to temporarily relieve the sufferer of the pain stemming from the arthritis.

Graphic courtesy of Cartiva

The Cartiva implant is an upgrade over-all other cartilage implants for the big toe.

Because of her desire to continue dancing, Suzie chose the most invasive of all options. She opted to have surgery on her big toe. But instead of doing traditional fusion surgery, Dr. Anthony performed an operation in which he fit Suzie with a Cartiva® synthetic cartilage implant.
First approved for use in the US five years ago, the Cartiva implant is an upgrade over other cartilage implants designed for the big toe because no bone is removed during the procedure.
“In traditional toe-joint surgeries, we remove part of the ball and cup of the joint and replace them with a metal cup and ball that have a piece of plastic between them,” Dr. Anthony informs. “Then we rely on the bone to grab onto that implant.
“That works very well in the hip, knee and shoulder, where the bones are very large. In the toes, however, the bones are so small that there’s limited ability to grab onto the implant. Consequently, we’ve seen a great deal of failure with them and they are no longer recommended.

High Rate of Success

“With the Cartiva implant, we replace the joint without taking away any of the bone. A hole is drilled in the center of the ball. We then place a polyvinyl alcohol implant in the hole. It locks into the bone and acts like a gel spacer between the ball and cup.”
Dr. Anthony began inserting Cartiva implants in patients such as Suzie about a year ago. He has performed the operation nearly 30 times and has yet to have a reported failure.
Cartiva implant surgery is not only effective, it’s convenient.
“It’s an outpatient surgery that we do in about thirty minutes under light general anesthesia, and you can walk again that day in a post-operative shoe with a bandage on the toe,” Dr. Anthony notes. “We remove the bandage and stitches about ten or twelve days later, and you’re back in your regular shoes.

“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome . . . I’m dancing again, and I don’t feel any pain at all, and it’s all due to Dr. Anthony. He’s just wonderful.” – Suzie

“It used to be that fusion surgery, where you fuse the toe bones together so they don’t move anymore, was the gold standard for someone with the kind of severe arthritis that Suzie had. But the Cartiva implant allows us to eliminate the pain while retaining motion in the big toe. That’s like hitting a home run for us.”
In Suzie’s case, Dr. Anthony hit a grand slam. Within a month, she was back on the dance floor participating in all four of the dance disciplines she enjoys the most, including ballroom dancing, which offered her a chance to finally try out her new shoes.
“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome from the surgery,” Suzie enthuses. “I’m dancing again, and I don’t feel any pain at all, and it’s all due to Dr. Anthony. He’s just wonderful. He really knows what he’s doing.
“And he’s such a professional. I was so worried that I might never be able to dance again, but he got me back on the dance floor as good as new. If you’re having a problem with your feet like I was, he is the one you want to see.”

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    • Advanced Orthopedic Center

      Whether you are a professional or collegiate athlete, an active retiree, a "weekend warrior," a high school football star or a hard-working employee anxious to make a difference, the Advanced Orthopedic Center is here to help you feel better a... Read More

    • Steven Anthony, DO

      Steven R. Anthony, DO, is a board-eligible orthopedic surgeon specializing in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders. He completed his undergraduate studies at Florida State University and went on to attend the West Virginia School of Osteop... Read More