Ankle-Stabilizing Surgery Helps Marie Head Get Back on Her Feet 

March 3, 2021

When Nursing Instructor Marie Head, DNP, RN, injured her ankle last summer, she thought it was just a simple sprain. But then she noticed numbness in her fourth and fifth toes, and knew she had to seek specialty care. Head, who lives in rural Oklahoma and teaches at a local community college, checked her insurance for a nearby specialist. One of the closest was at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, an hour away.

James Stough, DPM
Podiatry Specialist James Stough, DPM

Head chose the office of Brooke Stough, DPM, and James Stough, DPM, close to the St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center campus, and initially saw Dr. Brooke Stough. Upon evaluation, she was concerned that Head had injured a nerve or tendon and sent her for an MRI. "That’s when we found I had torn four different ligaments in my foot," says Head. "I wore a boot for six weeks, then had a brace and physical therapy for six weeks."

Despite the lengthy treatment, Head was still experiencing pain and her gait was not normal. "Dr. Stough advised that I see her husband, Dr. James Stough, who specializes in podiatric surgery," she says. 

Internal Brace Lateral Ankle Stabilization

After evaluating Head, Dr. James Stough determined that she had a high ankle sprain and lateral ankle sprain. "This can usually be treated with a boot and physical therapy, after which they feel fine. But then six months later, the patient may feel like they sprained it again," he says. "So for this, the solution was an internal brace lateral ankle stabilization procedure, which we did at St. Mary’s as outpatient surgery."

After surgery, Head was in a splint and could not put weight on the joint for three weeks. She used a scooter to get around. The next three weeks, she wore a boot and received physical therapy to build back her strength. "It was painful at first, but now it is just a little stiff from time to time. I am still doing my physical therapy and muscle-strengthening exercises at home, though, to get back to somewhat normal," she says.

Head is happy with the surgery and results. "They did great making sure PPE was in place and their testing procedures followed COVID protocols. The nurses were very nice and I felt comfortable with the whole team," says Head. "I was also pleased with the care provided by Dr. Brooke Stough when my injury was first addressed."

Dr. James Stough explains that surgery like that performed on Head makes sense when a patient has had a lateral sprain that remains painful or unstable after conservative treatment. "Some patients say their ankle does not hurt, but it just doesn’t feel right and they don’t trust its stability. When you stretch or tear the ligaments, you can conservatively treat and they will fill in with scar tissue. For the average person, that will be fine, but if you are more active, that scar tissue has a tendency to stretch and weaken over time, which causes the instability," he says. "It’s more common than people think, and many people walk around on a weak ankle for years not thinking there is a solution. This is it."

Dr. James Stough, the only podiatrist at St. Mary’s who performs surgery, offers Achilles tendon procedures, pediatric flatfoot reconstruction, Tarsal Tunnel (the ankle version of carpal tunnel), bunionectomies, hind foot and ankle fusions, foot and ankle trauma, and restorative surgery. He also specializes in diabetic amputations and limb salvage and works closely with St. Mary’s wound clinic to ensure the best possible outcomes.