Deryl Earsom - Arthrodesis of the Foot

Arthrodesis of the footDeryl Earsom crossed the finish line of the 2007 Boston marathon exhausted and cold, but with a smile of triumph on his face. The 45-year-old Earsom, who suffered from pain in his left foot for years, had been diagnosed five years ago with severe osteoarthritis.

“He had almost complete obliteration of the space between his toe joint as a result of osteoarthritis,” says Jeffrey E. Johnson, MD, Chief of Foot and Ankle Surgery with Washington University Orthopedics.

Faced with the possibility of a total joint replacement, Earsom worried that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with his goal of competing in two marathons a year. “I’m not a professional athlete, but I had the idea when I turned 40 that I wanted to run in a marathon,” he says. “I began running regularly and was running around 30 miles per week and competing in marathons twice a year when I started feeling severe pain in my big toe.”

Taking into account Earsom’s active lifestyle and his age, Dr. Johnson recommended arthrodesis, where the bones are fused together, rather than total joint replacement. “Arthrodesis is usually recommended after medicine and therapy are ineffective at minimizing pain,” says Dr. Johnson. “By fusing the bones of the joint together, we can restore stability, minimize pain, and improve overall bone alignment.”

Proper bone alignment is critical to the success of arthrodesis, which can be performed on many joints, such as ankles, wrists, toes, or fingers. “I was concerned that I wouldn’t regain movement after the surgery, but they assured me I would be able to remain active,” says Earsom. Within a year after surgery and rehabilitation, he ran in the St. Louis marathon. In 2006, after competing in another marathon in San Francisco, he qualified for the Boston marathon. “I’m better now than before,” he laughs. “I’ve run faster since I had my surgery and that’s amazing. Now I’m competing in triathalons, which involve running, swimming and bicycling.

“I’m just trying to live a healthy, active adult life,” Earsom adds. “The doctors understood my fitness goals and they got me back on the track as quick as they could. The fusion surgery was the best option for me.”


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