Guided by this philosophy of care, SLU Hospital’s orthopaedic surgeons began offering a new treatment option for trauma patients, specifically those who’ve sustained severe bone fractures in their legs and now suffer from unequal leg length. One of the potential side effects of leg bone fractures that don’t heal properly is unequal leg length.
Traditionally, the Ilizarov apparatus – named after orthopaedic surgeon Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov of the Soviet Union – has been used for leg lengthening. Although it’s an effective device, the Ilizarov’s metallic frame affixes on the outside of the leg, which can often be cumbersome and interfere with mobility.
“It’s a technique that has helped countless people, but it isn’t the most patient friendly option,” said J. Tracy Watson, a SLUCare orthopaedic surgeon at SLU Hospital. And he should know. Dr. Watson has been using the Ilizarov apparatus for years. In fact, he was personally trained by Dr. Ilizarov in 1987 during a trip to Russia.
In search of a more patient friendly option, SLU Hospital’s orthopaedic surgeons turned to the PRECICE device – a new leg limb lengthening system that uses a remote control and magnets to extend the leg, particularly the femur and tibia bones. Compared to the adjustable external fixation systems attached to the leg bone through long-term openings in the skin, the PRECICE device is implanted internally and adjusted using non-invasive methods.
“The PRECICE device avoids many of the complications patients face with an external device,” said Dr. Watson. “It’s a unique, patient friendly way to achieve post traumatic-leg lengthening.”
By using a remote control for two minutes, three times per day, the PRECICE system uses magnets to lengthen the bone approximately one millimeter daily. Patients would use the device for approximately three to four months to lengthen the leg one inch or eight to 10 months for two inches.
While leg length discrepancies are often congenital and treated among a pediatric population, Dr. Watson says the patient population at SLU Hospital will primarily be those whose leg length was altered due to traumatic injury.
“Many of our patients have had a prior leg injury, a prior surgery or previous hardware in the legs,” said Dr. Watson. “The PRECICE device holds great promise for these patients.”
The PRECICE technology was approved for marketing clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011.
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