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Artificial Ankle Takes Giant Step Forward
Date:6/18/2009

Newly approved device allows pain-free mobility, experts say

THURSDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- The world has taken another step -- a flexible and strong step -- toward achieving the bionic (wo)man.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved what appears to be the first artificial ankle that allows range of motion in the joint.

Known as the Scandinavian Total Ankle Replacement , or STAR, system, it was approved in May after four years of study involving 224 people.

"The STAR prosthesis is the only one with a mobile bearing," said Dr. Roger Mann, an orthopedic surgeon in Oakland, Calif., co-editor of the classic textbook Surgery of the Foot & Ankle and one of the principal investigators of the clinical trial that led to the device's approval. "That's one of the factors that gives movement."

"It allows people to walk without pain," he continued. "These people are really miserable before. They just can't get around. Every time they try to walk, they have pain, and, as a result, it limits their activities."

But now, Mann said, "they can walk and hike and play golf, play doubles tennis (as long as they don't get into it too much), ski and do all activities of daily living. You're not being restricted very much."

Dr. Judith Baumhauer, associate chairwoman of academic affairs in the orthopedics department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, described the new ankle as revolutionary. "There have been ankle replacements on the market, but they took them off because they were poorly designed," she said. "This is different because it has three components."

The STAR ankle, designed in 1978 by a Danish doctor, has helped Europeans walk for about 10 years.

Mann learned of the prosthesis when giving a speech on ankle replacements -- specifically, ankle fusions -- at a conference in Denmark.

"Ankle fusions work pretty well, but
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