New Limb-Lengthening Tech May Reduce Complications for Sufferers of Crippling Deformities [Slide Show]
A move to lengthen limbs internally rather than via an external scaffold could reduce the effects of painful treatments, especially among younger patients
Credits: Dr. John Herzenberg
ONE MORE SURGERY: More than 30 people have been fitted with Precice technology at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore since early 2012. Although the process is painful, doctors say it is a significant improvement over other options such as the external fixator. Two weeks ago, the Precise received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, which makes it possible for patients to take the device home rather than live at the hospital—welcome news for Renee and her family.
PHYSICAL THERAPY: Renee spends months of her life in the hospital and must attend physical therapy daily or risk losing the ability to walk normally. The hour-long workouts are tough. Even simple activities that require a limited range of motion can be excruciatingly painful.
THE SCHEDULE: Renee has to go into the hospital three times a day for this lengthening procedure. The process is deliberately slow to give her bone time to heal each time it is pulled farther apart.
HOW IT WORKS: Renee underwent a seven-and-a-half-hour surgical procedure to implant the Precice technology. The rod inside Renee's leg contains a typical rare earth magnet attached to a gearbox. As the doctor rotates magnets in a handheld operator, magnets within Renee's leg will turn one revolution, extending a rod and effectively lengthening her leg.
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LIMB LENGTHENING: Erica Voss and daughter Renee, now 15-years-old: Limb lengthening is a time-consuming process. Patients must come in for multiple consultations to map their growth patterns using special software to compute the measurements. With a certain degree of accuracy, orthopedic surgeons can approximate a child's growth rate and thus determine the optimal timing for the surgery.
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