Kootenai | Kootenai Health | Issue 1, 2024

By Kim Anderson As the owner of Viking Construction, Wendell Olson has built more than 4,000 homes in Kootenai County. Recently he needed help with a different kind of building project. After years of suffering with a worn-out ankle joint, Wendell was a prime candidate for ankle replacement surgery. His journey to ankle replacement began more than 30 years ago, when he injured his left ankle while skiing. He got along OK in spite of the injury until 2007, when he reached his 60s. At that time, all the research he did and the medical advice he received was pointing to an ankle fusion as the solution. In ankle fusion surgery, the bones of the ankle joint— namely, the tibia and talus—are attached to one another with screws or plates to eliminate pain in the arthritic joint. In time, the bones fuse together as they heal. Wendell, an accomplished private pilot, is used to the regional access flying provides. He chose a very experienced Boise surgeon for his procedure. Unfortunately, in Wendell’s case the healing process was not ideal. After the procedure, he was in a lot of pain, and healing took much longer than expected. The pain he felt at the fusion caused him to change the way he walked, relying much more heavily on his right ankle. In time, his change in gait wore out his previously good right ankle. Edward Rooney, M.D. After Ankle Replacement A search for options “My doctor suggested another ankle fusion, but after what I went through with the first one, I didn’t want to do that again,” Wendell said. “I got cortisone injections and started wearing prosthetic supports, but it wasn’t enough. I was wearing a walking cast, and my pain was still at an 8 or 9 out of 10. I thought, ‘Life’s not worth this much pain.’” He began researching other options and found Edward Rooney, M.D., at Kootenai Clinic Orthopedic Services. Dr. Rooney joined Kootenai Clinic in 2022. His fellowship training specialized in foot and ankle orthopedic surgery. “I wanted someone fresh out of fellowship who would be experienced with the latest approach to ankle replacement,” Wendell said. “When I met Dr. Rooney, he was just a great young man. We scheduled my surgery for June of 2023.” How ankle replacement works “Ankle replacement surgery is similar to hip and knee replacement surgeries,” said Dr. Rooney. “We remove the worn-out joint and replace it with an artificial implant that allows the same type of motions you make with your natural ankle. Patients are able to have a more normal gait and movement than they do with an ankle fusion.” WALKING WITHOUT PAIN 18