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Innovative surgery here. Child received implant to lengthen leg

An 11-year-old child received a “mechatronic intramedullary implant” for left leg stretching, an innovative surgery performed on Tuesday by a team from the Orthopedics Service of the University Hospital Center of Central Lisbon.

The pediatric orthopedist Delfin Tavares, who performed the surgery, explained that it is intended with this device to lengthen the child’s bone until it is “the ideal size now or when it has finished growing”.

Delfin Tavares said that the child had a sequel of an infection that he had in the first days of life and that damaged the growing cartilage and created “a situation in which the leg does not grow in the same way as the other, great”.

This is the first implant to be placed in an 11-year-old child in Portugal to lengthen the left lower limb.

The surgeon was assisted by Dr Franck Accadbled, Coordinator of the Department of Pediatric Orthopedics at Hôpital des Efants in Toulouse, France, and Nathalie Poussou of the Department of Pediatric Orthopedics at the same hospital.

This technology was developed by the German company Wittenstein and allows to proceed to the elongation of the limbs by placing in the medullary cavity of a stretching pin through the accomplishment of a minimally invasive surgery, this mechanism being later activated externally through an electronic device of control, “says the hospital.

The specialist said that for bone elongation what has been used are external fixators.

This technique presents “numerous advantages” over the external fixators, allowing the correction of deformities and stretching of the limbs more quickly, effectively and less traumatically for the patient.

In this case, the intervention is inside the bone, does not involve any wound to the patient, avoiding “a series of complications that are created when having external fixators,” he explained.

About what will happen with this intervention, Delfin Tavares said that the leg will “stay a little longer because the child still continues to grow, is 11 years old.”

“At the moment it has a difference of four centimetres, but we will try to stretch up to six centimetres because it will continue to grow,” he said.

According to the doctor, the “big problem” is that at this moment with the difference that has in the legs, the child is already having “some complications of the posture, the way of walking” and in school.

The surgery will have important gains for the child who “will be practically the same with regards to walking and making her life without having to wear high compensating shoes,” he said.

According to Delfin Tavares, “there are many children who can do this surgery”, but the big problem is the value of the device that is “very expensive”.

“But if we are to do the math, in a child in whom conventional surgery with external fixators is performed, length of hospital stay, rehospitalization for infections or some complications” and the time the parents and child have to stop, the final costs will be practically the same, he concluded.

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