A revolutionary new operation is set to transform the lives of arthiritis patients in the North East.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK with around one million people visiting their GP about it every year.
Osteoarthritis of the big toe is the second most common form of the condition, affecting the mobility of suffers, who can experience a great deal of pain and stiffness.
The condition in the severe stage totally restricts movement of the toe joint and makes it very difficult for ladies to wear certain types of shoes such as high heels.
Until recently the only resolution for extreme cases was to have the big toe joint fused together. But although the procedure reduced pain it took away flexibility in the foot which could make it difficult for the person to walk comfortably ever again.
Now consultant surgeon Rajiv Limaye of independent NHS provider Tyneside Surgical Services (TSS) based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, is carrying out an alternative procedure - big toe joint replacement procedure.
The treatment is available on the NHS and is having a great deal of success.
He said: “I am proud to have been able to offer this procedure to our NHS patients because so many people suffer from osteoarthritis and it has a big effect on their quality of life.
“In the past fusing the joint would remove the high levels of pain experienced by those who suffer from this condition but totally removes the flexibility.
“This causes a considerable change in the way an individual walks and it is a particular issue for women who want to continue to wear fashionable high heels.
Mr Limaye is one of the surgeons’ spearheading a national trial led from Robert Jones Orthopaedic Hospital, Shropshire, and also including Liverpool and London for big toe joint replacement procedure.
He added: “For this study I have been carrying out this procedure since February 2013 and in that time I’ve managed to operate on 32 patients. “Most of these patients are very satisfied with complete pain relief and retaining a good range of movement in the toe joint.
“By ensuring the artificial joint is comprised of a plastic composite we are making sure that we retain a lot of flexibility and longevity at the same time.”