Unique surgery for area performed at Trinity

STEUBENVILLE – A procedure done successfully in major markets for more than a dozen years now has been done locally, at Trinity Medical Center West.

Dr. Stephen Conti on Wednesday performed the first successful ankle replacement done in the area at Trinity.

“It’s a commonplace alternative to ankle fusion,” said Conti, who has had office hours with Trinity’s Orthopedics Institute for about six weeks. He’s been doing ankle replacements for about 15 years, most recently in the Pittsburgh market where he is with Orthopedics Specialists-UPMC. “With fusion, you scrape off the cartilage, screw the bones together and they grow together. You get pain relief at the expense of range of motion. With ankle replacements, you get great pain relief and range of motion – but it doesn’t last forever.”

He said the ankle replacement – two pieces of metal separated by plastic-will wear out over time. Its useful life is typically around 10 years, “whereas ankle fusion will last forever” though the patient will walk with a limp.

He said about half his patients still choose ankle replacement despite its limited useful life.

“My patient today was in her early 40s,” he said. “That’s very, very young to get ankle replacement but she’d been in a car crash. Because the crash did damage to her foot, she’d already had other parts of her foot fused. If I’d fused her ankle in addition to the other joints, it would have been really stiff. The reality is, people with ankle replacements walk pretty good.”

He said the procedure usually takes about two hours. Patients typically remain in the hospital overnight and leave the following day on crutches and with a splint. They must stay non-weight bearing or with limited weight bearing for about a month, followed by two- to three-months of intensive physical therapy. At the end of four months, he said patients typically experience little deep bone pain and have regained range of motion, though they won’t be at full foot strength for another nine to 12 months.

Conti described it as “bringing Pittsburgh medicine to Trinity West.”

“We’re doing what we did there, here,” he said. “Patients don’t need to travel into Pittsburgh.”

Trinity spokesman Keith Murdock echoed that, saying in the past they’d probably referred “60 to 70 cases a year” to Conti and his associates in Pittsburgh.

“It’s much easier for patients and families that he’s here now,” said Murdock, adding that Trinity was “really pleased” to have doctors with their experience and expertise operating in the community.

Also part of Trinity’s Orthopedics Institute are Dr. Kumar Amin, general orthopedics, Trinity Health System; Dr. Thomas B. Hughes, upper extremity specialist, Orthopaedic Specialists-UPMC; Dr. Michael Scarpone, sports medicine and performance, Trinity; Dr. Mark A. Fine, spine specialist, Trinity; Dr. Edward Snell, sports medicine, Trinity/AGH; and Dr. Milton Swaby, psychiatrist, Trinity.