New treatment offers joint flexibility for those suffering from toe arthritis

Denise Dador Image
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Video shows the procedure of a synthetic cartilage implant.
Video shows the procedure of a synthetic cartilage implant.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- The most common type of foot arthritis is at the base of the big toe. Conventional treatments don't always allow patients to regain full range of motion, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new way to keep the joint flexible.

Three weeks after surgery, avid surfer Steve Sorotsky can't wait to get back in the water.

"I was surfing three or four days a week and working out four days a week," said Sorotsky.

All that activity might be what led to the wear and tear of cartilage in his left big toe.

When you step, your big toe handles up to about 50 percent of a person's body weight. For Sorotsky, the pain was excruciating. He would limp and not bend his foot to compensate for the pain.

Podiatrist Bob Baravarian, with the University Foot and Ankle Institute, said toe arthritis can be caused by an injury or improper foot mechanics.

"He's been jamming his joint for years and over time, he has developed arthritis of the joint," said Baravarian.

There are a few ways to treat it, but traditional treatments involve replacing worn out cartilage with a metal implant or fusing bones together.

Both procedures can lead to months of down time.

Baravarian talked to Sorotsky about a new option: a synthetic cartilage implant. He said the implant is very similar to cartilage in density and stiffness.

"We make a small drill hole in the bone, and then the implant is fitted into the bone." said Baravarian.

Sorotsky said he can actually feel a resistance, like there's a squashy sponge between his bones.

After surgery, patients have to wear a protective boot for about two weeks. But when the incision heals, which takes about three weeks, doctors say they can go back to wearing their regular shoes.

In FDA clinical trials, researchers report an 80 percent success rate.

Experts believe the implant can last up to 20 years, and after that, doctors can replace it.

"It certainly helped me. Three weeks out and I feel excellent. I really feel great," said Sorotsky.