Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Remote controlled leg lengthening underway

Lengthening of limbs is mostly performed when the patient is born with legs that are not of equal length. Surgeons usually put a metal device in place which is attached to the bone and needs to be controlled manually, but a new version made by the Sinai Hospital can be controlled remotely. With their system, the whole process ought to cause less discomfort. Normally, limb lengthening is extremely painful. It is likely that the remote controlled system is not quite pain free, but will at least be more smooth.

The Sinai Hospital system is based on implanting a titanium rod in either the shin or thigh bone, depending on the patient. The lengthy pin is connected to a small motor, that is controlled by magnetic forces delivered externally. When a device that generates a magnetic field is placed on the skin, the motor starts to work and the titanium rod slowly elongates. In turn, the limb elongates as well, slowly but steadily.

If all goes well, the tissue can increase in length by one millimetre a day. For this, patients need to place the device that generates a magnetic field on their skin several times a day for a few minutes. It is not possible to speed this up, as the body can only regenerate tissue slowly.

Normally, limb lengthening is achieved by breaking the leg bones and placing a large metal device in or on the leg, which slowly stretches. It causes great pain and is highly uncomfortable. Placing a pin inside the bone is an easier and less obtrusive way to achieve elongation, however it is not stated whether breaking the bone with the new method is necessary. Nevertheless, simply placing a magnetic field generator on the skin is a much smoother way of getting longer legs, and ought to be somewhat of a relief for patients undergoing this form of surgery.

The first limb elongations have already been performed in human patients, and the American authorities of the FDA have approved the treatment, which makes it the first of its kind to get the green light. It means we may very well see the limb elongation therapy pop up in clinics, for people that were born with legs of unequal length, or just very short legs.
The old-fashioned way.

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