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Wed 9 Aug 2017
How a 'space-age jelly bean' cured my arthritis
New medical procedure carried out at Elland hospital

A dad-of-two has a spring in his step after being one of the first people in Yorkshire to have a ‘space-age jelly bean’ fitted to his big toe to end his arthritis agony.

Mick Wood, 53, found himself at the cutting-edge of medical science when his toe was fitted with a Cartiva implant – a ‘spacer’ made of slippery, organic polymer.

It was fitted at Spire Elland by consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Kurt Haendlmayer who said: “I call it a jelly bean for the big toe because that is what it looks and feels like.

“It is just a squidgy bean-type thing that functions in a similar way to natural cartilage and allows much more movement in the toe than a traditional ‘fusion’ operation would.”

Mick had previously had a conventional fusion operation on his left big toe three years ago, so when he found himself in a similar situation with the right toe he thought the same procedure would be on the cards.

However, Mr Haendlmayer suggested that for someone fit and active, the new implant would produce better results.

“I was a bit apprehensive at first – it all seemed a bit ‘Tomorrow’s World-ish’ for me,” said Mick.

“But Mr Haendlmayer gave me lots of information about the success of similar operations in America and it didn’t take me long to decide I was happy with the whole thing.”

”It was obviously a new procedure because when I went in for the operation there were a load of other people in there simply to observe it taking place – I felt like I was a bit of a celebrity!”

In a conventional fusion procedure, the additional bone build-up around the joint (osteophytes) and the usually very ragged, degenerated joint surfaces, are scraped away before the toe joint is secured with screws and a plate, making it immobile. Up until recently that was the gold standard of toe surgery.

Mr Haendlmayer added: “This does alleviate the pain caused by the arthritis but, on the down-side, it means the toe is now held rigid by the metalwork which, in turn, limits the amount of movement possible by the toe.”

“With the Cartiva implant the extra bone is also cleared, but instead of making the joint immobile, we fix metal rods in both the toe and the socket and introduce the implant which cushions the area where the toe and the foot meet, just as normal cartilage would.”

Mick, from Pontefract, is delighted with the results, saying he was now virtually pain-free and able to run, kneel and even drive for long distances.

“To be honest, I wasn’t unhappy with the previous fusion operation – it certainly relieved a lot of the pain – but this one seems much, much better and the movement I have in the toe is unbelievable.

“I might be one of the first in this area to have a ‘jelly bean’ toe but I don’t think I will be the last.”

British Orthopedic Association British Medical Association