Health Watch: Cartiva: Cushion your big toe

NEW YORK -- For patients with arthritis of the big toe, surgery to fuse bones together often eliminates the pain, but comes with some side effects. Doctors are using a tiny shock absorber as a way to eliminate arthritis pain. Ivanhoe has more on how doctors used this method to bring relief to one of America's unsung heroes.

Fifty-nine-year-old Brian Bonsignore spent 25 years with the New York fire department. His last assignment was the most grueling of his career. He supervised what's known as the GPS unit recovering 911 victims and marking each location with a GPS tag.

"The government wanted to know where the body part or human remains were found," Brian shared.

The team spent eight months scouring the piles of rubble that remained at ground zero.

Brian continued, "It takes a toll on your knees, your legs, your joints. It takes a toll on every part of your body."

But it was the arthritis he developed in his big toe as a result that led Brian to Ettore Vulcano, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Mount Sinai, West.

"Now the gold standard for treating this condition has been, and still is, fusion," said Dr. Vulcano.

Fusing the bones in his toe would eliminate pain, but also limit the range of motion. That's why Brian opted for surgery to insert a cushion in between the toe bones. It's called Cartiva.

"It's a synthetic cartilage plug. It's made of a material similar to that used for contact lenses," stated Dr. Vulcano.

Dr. Vulcano made an incision in the top of the toe, drilled a small hole in the joint, then slid the insert into place. The procedure took 30 minutes. Brian was up and moving in just a few days.

"Just enjoying my feet and walking around without any pain," said Brian.

Dr. Vulcano says Cartiva is a good option for patients with end-stage arthritis in their big toes. If Cartiva doesn't relieve the pain, fusion is still an option.