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Weak Ankles, Strong Replacements

One local doctor is the first in Missouri to implement the Scandinavian Total Ankle Replacement, a model that significantly improves mobility

Photograph courtesy of St. Anthony's Medical Center

Ankles are one of the most essential joints for mobility. Until now, however, ankle replacements typically haven't been as effective as their hip and knee contemporaries.

This April, John Weltmer, orthopedic surgeon at Tesson Heights Orthopedics, was the first surgeon in Missouri to implement the FDA-approved Scandinavian Total Ankle Replacement (STAR) model, a mobile-bearing ankle that moves more naturally and allows for more flexibility than the classic, fixed-ankle replacement.

“The STAR is significantly better than the standard ankle replacement,” says Weltmer. “Not only is it better for the mobility of the patient, but it’s also much easier to implant because less dissection is required.”

STAR models have been implanted in Europe for nearly 20 years, and were only recently approved for use in the United States. The model, designed to replicate normal anatomy, is not fixed to a point on the leg bone, but is stabilized because of its positioning and the fact that it grows into the bone itself. Weltmer says the STAR models are expected to last between 10 and 15 years, though they could last longer.

“This model is really the best option,” says Weltmer. “People are seeing really positive outcomes and, as a result, more surgeons are getting trained. The STAR model leads to minimized recovery time and maximized mobility.”

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