Total Ankle Replacement – Valerie’s Story

Valerie's total ankle replacement

Valerie on Mount Kilimanjaro

After an accident in 1979 that resulted in an ankle injury, Valerie underwent surgery on her left ankle to repair the joint. At the time, total ankle replacement was in its infancy and regarded as an experimental procedure. It wasn’t until the late 80s and early 90s that advancements in design made total ankle replacement a viable option for patients.

Initially, the ankle surgery worked, but after five years, Valerie began to experience constant pain at her ankle. Being resilient, she didn’t let the pain stop her from living her life, so she carried on without realizing that she had changed her gait to compensate for the pain. Valerie walked on the tips of her toes for 25 years! She didn’t anticipate the arthritic damage caused by changing her body’s natural movement or the pain it would cause in other areas of her body.

After her husband’s successful knee surgery in 2010, she decided that there was still hope for her ankle. Valerie started to research and educate herself on treatment options for total ankle replacement. It was during this time that the years of walking on her toes finally caught up with her. Physical therapy was prescribed to address the severe hip pain caused by Valerie’s adapted gait. During one of her many physical therapy sessions, her therapist mentioned attending a lecture by Dr. Sameh (Sam) Labib of Emory Orthopedics & Spine Center. The lecture focused on treatment options for ankle arthritis. Valerie scheduled a consultation with Dr. Sameh’s office right away.

During the consultation, Dr. Labib reviewed Valerie’s case, described his diagnostic process, clinical reasoning, and delivered a tailored treatment plan that had the best outcome. In other words, Valerie was a good candidate for a total ankle replacement surgery. She was thrilled.

After careful consideration, Valerie decided to have total ankle replacement surgery in March of 2015. Post-surgery, things were uneventful – she had an average recovery. She had better function but continued to experience some pain due to bone spurs. At her one-year post-surgical follow-up, Dr. Labib arthroscopically, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, removed the bone spurs in July of 2016. Valerie has been 100 percent pain-free ever since.

Before surgery, I couldn’t walk far. After surgery? I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro — all 19,800 feet — and watched a glorious sunrise from “the roof of Africa!” with my 26-year old son and six friends and family members. I hiked and climbed for seven days to fulfill a life-long dream. Thank you, Dr. Labib. You made it possible. — Valerie

About Total Ankle Replacement Surgery

For patients with damaged ankles, ankle prosthesis may provide a reasonable option. Total ankle replacement is a procedure designed for mature patients with low impact activity demands. In this procedure, a badly damaged ankle is completely replaced with an artificial implant (prosthesis). Because the damaged ankle is completely removed, total ankle replacement can resolve serious ankle problems, like osteoarthritis.

Although not as common as a total hip or knee joint replacement, advances in implant design have made ankle replacement a feasible option for many people. Ankle replacement offers patients significant pain relief, better mobility and movement compared to fusion surgery. By allowing motion at the ankle joint, less stress is transferred to the adjacent joints, which means lessened chances of arthritis in those adjacent joints.

Ankle replacement is most often recommended for patients with:

  • An ankle condition that interferes with daily activities
  • Advanced arthritis of the ankle
  • Low impact activities

As with any joint replacement surgery, the ankle implant may loosen over the years or fail. If the implant failure is severe, revision surgery may be necessary.


About Dr. Labib

Dr. Labib

Dr. Labib has an interest in problems and procedures of the knee, ankle, and foot. He is the head team physician for the athletic program at Oglethorpe University. He is also an orthopedic consultant to Atlanta Professional Teams as well as Georgia Tech and Emory University.

He has lectured both nationally and internationally at many orthopedic meetings. His research has been published in several journals, including Arthroscopy, Foot and Ankle International and JBJS -B as well as numerous video presentations and book chapters. Dr. Labib is Board Certified in orthopedic surgery with additional subspecialty certification in Sports Medicine Surgery. For the past 5 years, Dr. Labib has been nominated by his peers as one of “America’s Top Doctors” as tracked by