Newswise — Three weeks before meeting with Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe orthopedic surgeon Matthew Brewster, D.O., a foot specialist from another hospital told Karen Schumann, 51, of Chesterfield Township, that bone fusion, which requires a metal plate and numerous screws, was the only treatment for the debilitating arthritis pain in both her big toes.

“That answer wasn’t good enough for me,” Schumann said.

After being referred to Dr. Brewster by her orthopedist, Schumann became one of the first in the country to receive a new, U.S. Federal Drug Administration-approved, synthetic cartilage, known as Cartiva, Feb. 22.

The implant eliminates arthritic pain in the big toe and enables patients to regain mobility and return to a healthy, active lifestyle by providing cushioning in between the bones.

Previously, bone fusion, which inhibits patient’s ability to remain active, was the only option.  

“I have so many health problems that can’t be fixed,” Schumann said. “I had a heart attack July 16. I’ve been hospitalized three times this year for kidney stones. And, in late December, I’m having surgery to repair two discs in my spine.”

“Getting the Cartiva implant has changed my life for the better,” Schumann said. “My toes have been killing me for 15 years. They had become almost totally inflexible. Most people don’t realize how much you use your big toes and how difficult it is to do simple things, like walk, when you are in so much pain.”

Schumann’s recovery went so well, within a couple weeks, she asked Dr. Brewster to schedule a second surgery for her other foot. That procedure was successfully completed April 23.      

According to Dr. Brewster, between 2 and 3 million Americans experience arthritis of the big toe and only about 100,000 seek treatment.

“Cartiva is ideal for people in their 40s and 50s who want to continue running, using the elliptical, wearing high heels, etc.,” Dr. Brewster said. “Up until now, there truly were no viable options for those who wanted to remain active.  That’s why so many choose to continue living with the pain.”   

Cartiva, which also has implications for the hands and fingers, is not a joint replacement but functions as a bumper between the bones.

“Essentially, we are changing the way we treat arthritis of the small joints,” Dr. Brewster said.

Since sharing her story with the media in March, Schumann has fielded dozens of phone calls from prospective Cartiva patients from around the country.

After encouraging “Steve from Iowa,” to fly in and have the procedure done at Beaumont, Grosse Pointe, in June, she even drove to the hospital last minute to sign his discharge papers.  

“They didn’t want to release him to a cab driver,” Schumann said with a laugh.

And when her husband Paul suggests doing away with the house telephone she simply says, “No. We can’t get rid of the Dr. Brewster hotline.”  

Currently, Schumann’s toes are still mildly swollen. But in early December, she plans to celebrate her recovery, by strapping on a festive pair of heels for Paul’s annual company Christmas party.

In the meantime, she’s hopping in and out of her pick-up truck, operating the four-wheeler at the family cottage in South Branch, and even pulling weeds, all pain-free.

“Dr. Brewster changed my life,” Schumann said.

For more information about Cartiva or to schedule an appointment, call 248 600-4717.



Register for reporter access to contact details