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"Tricky" bone healing technique from Soviet Union.

"TRICKY" BONE HEALING TECHNIQUE FROM SOVIET UNION

An innovative orthopedic surgical technique that "tricks" damaged bone into continuously healing itself, thus growing significant amounts of new bone and eliminating the need for bone grafts, has been introduced to this country via a Soviet physician.

Dr. Gavriil Ilizarov, a Siberian orthopedic surgeon, developed the technique to reshape deformed bones, lengthen the limbs of dwarves, and to fill in gaps created by the removal of tumors. The technique is based on the use of an external metal apparatus that can be custom-designed for each patient. The procedure is virtually bloodless and causes the patient little post-operative discomfort.

With the Ilizarov method, the bone is lengthened, leaving the bone marrow intact by a series of rods and wires inserted into the bone and joined to a frame enclosing the limb. The bone is then surgically fractured and rotated slightly, creating a space that promotes new bone growth. The device enables patients to turn two knobs at precise intervals to pull apart cut ends of the bone about .01 inch. this induces additional growth.

Though used to treat more than one million Soviet patients, the technique has only recently been introduced in this country. Dr. George Shybut, orthopedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and assistant professor of orthopedics at Northwestern University Medical School, was one of 26 American and European physicians who studied with Ilizarov in Siberia this past September. Already he has begun using the technique on his own adult bone trauma cases.

"The beauty of the Ilizarov method is its versatility," says Shybut. "In addition to repairing minor bone fractures, it can also mend severe breaks due to accidents, in which bone has been lost or destroyed." Shybut has already used the method to lengthen the leg of one patient whose shattered shinbone was the result of an accident. "Without the Ilizarov method, this patient would have gone through life with one leg two inches shorter than the other," Shybut says. Because the method is relatively new in this country, however, Shybut adds that surgeons here will concentrate on simpler cases before applying the technique to ones as complex as those treated in Siberia.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Words:364
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