Implanting a titanium tube inside damaged bones improves procedure to ward off amputations

Implanted titanium rod used in the alternative limb-lengthening procedure--Courtesy of Loyola U.

A titanium rod implanted inside a bone can improve limb-lengthening procedures that are used to prevent the need for limb amputation, a study in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research co-published by Loyola University orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mitchell Bernstein found.

The main benefit of implanting the rod was that it reduces the amount of time patients had to spend in a so-called circular external fixator from 11 months to 7 months, at least among 58 patients trying to lengthen their shinbone. External fixators are rigid frames made of stainless steel aluminum. They attach to bone and manipulate fragments via metallic pins, the Loyola University news release says.

As their name suggests, external fixators are worn outside the body via rings that surround the targeted limb. Besides being unsightly, they make sleeping and wearing clothes over the device difficult. They can also lead to skin irritation and infections near the pins.

The goal of limb lengthening is bone regeneration in patients with birth defects, severe fracture or bone cancer. The alternative is amputation of the section of bone that's been damaged by infection following injury or removed during tumor excision.

The implanted titanium rod reduces the use of circular external fixators, like this one made by Smith & Nephew.--Courtesy of Smith & Nephew

External fixators are used to pull two bone segments in opposite directions four times a day so that new bone tissue can grow in between them. They can lengthen bone about 1 millimeter a day, the news release says, adding that bones can be lengthened by 15% to 25%.

The study found similar outcomes and levels of complications in patients undergoing limb-lengthening procedures with and without the implanted aluminum rod.

- read the release