Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Magnetic limb extender

A magnetic limb extender was successfully used at Texas Children’s Cancer Center to lengthen a little girl’s leg. In late March, 2010, nine-year-old Morgan LaRue had a cancerous (due to an osteosarcoma) section of her left upper leg bone removed. Rather than amputating the leg, the bone was replaced with a prosthetic device called a ‘Stanmore Implants Extendable Distal Femoral Replacement’. Prosthetics have, of course, been used for centuries, but what made this particular device unique was that it was not only extendable, but also magnetic.

Without these properties, a growing child like Morgan would face multiple operations to replace or extend her prosthesis so that her two legs could remain the same length. In her case, her left leg was simply placed within a donut shaped magnet that lengthened the prosthesis without surgery.

Although this device has been used regularly in Europe, it has not yet been approved for use within the U.S. Morgan’s doctors, Rex Marco and Lisa Wang received a ‘compassionate use’ exception to give her the prosthesis.