Marjorie Miller was plagued with severe, constant foot pain for more than two years. It interfered with activities she enjoys with her husband, such as long walks on the beach and ballroom dancing. It even disturbed her sleep.
The pain began one evening after some light ballroom dancing. Marjorie felt sharp, intense pain when stepping even if she avoided dances that were harder on her feet and ankles. She was, in her words, “crippled.”
After some attempts with other treatments, Marjorie consulted with Dr. Robert Steele, an orthopaedic surgeon with Christiana Care’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Marjorie was immediately impressed by how Dr. Steele listened to her and respected her opinions and observations. He quickly diagnosed her condition as adult-onset flat-foot deformity, a common condition found in women over 50. It is a painful affliction that occurs in those with no history of previous foot problems.
In most cases, this condition is successfully treated without surgery. Patients are fitted with a custom-made brace for three to four months. In 75 to 80 percent of cases, patients do well with the brace, which corrects the foot position so that the inflamed tendon can rest. After three to four months, patients switch to a smaller arch support.
Unfortunately, the brace did not help Marjorie, and she ultimately required surgery, which, for this condition, involves cutting and repositioning the heel bone and adding a screw to hold it in the proper position. Resecting the diseased tendon and replacing it with a tendon transplanted from another part of the foot is also part of the procedure.
After the surgery, Marjorie wore a supportive boot for 10 to 12 weeks and strengthened her foot with physical therapy. According to Dr. Steele, her foot is now “close to 100 percent” functional.
Marjorie is “ecstatic,” she said. She returned to long walks on the beach and ballroom dancing. She and her husband have even taken two-hour Argentine tango lessons. She is delighted to be able to say to her friends, “Look! I can wear my ‘pretty’ shoes again.” In a nutshell, she says, “I feel like my life has been given back to me!”