Local doctors perform new leg lengthening procedure

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- If a person has one leg that is shorter due to disease or injury, it not only affects his gait, but can cause hip, knee and ankle problems. Now, local doctors are using a new device to help grow new bone to fix that problem. It's called Precice.

Dr. J. Eric Gordon, an orthopedic surgeon with Washington University and Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis, was one of the first in the area to use Precice. It's an alternative to the traditional external fixator, a ring device with pins that go through the skin into the bone.

Last September, Dr. Gordon used Precice to lengthen the leg of 16-year-old Chris Bishop of Wichita, Kansas. Chris was a patient at Shriners. While battling leukemia at age 4, he got an infection in his left knee. It damaged his growth plate and left that leg 2-1/2 inches shorter than the right leg. He had to wear shoes with a lift or deal with a limp when walking without shoes.

The Precice limb lengthening system consists of a remote control for the patient to use and a rod that's implanted in the patient's leg. Doctors cut the bone. The remote control activates magnets and gears in the implant that slowly pull the bone apart and allows new bone to fill in. Chris had to use the remote 2-1/2 minutes, 3 times a day, allowing about  a millimeter of bone to grow a day. In a little over two months, Chris added about 65 millimeters or about 2-1/2 inches of new bone.

During that time he could not put weight on the leg and had to use crutches to get around. He had to undergo extensive physical therapy to retain range of motion and strength. While the new bone solidified, Chris still could not put weight on the leg.

In January, Dr. Gordon liked what he saw on Chris' x-rays and released him to start putting weight on his left leg and walking. Besides increased activity, Chris says he's looking forward to buying the latest shoes without worrying whether they can be fitted with a lift.

Ellipse Technologies: Maker of Precice  http://www.ellipse-tech.com/
Webgadget http://www.medgadget.com/2011/08/precise-remote-controlled-leg-limb-lengthening-system-given-fda-clearance.html
Shriners Hospital www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/StLouis