May 14, 2004 at 7:45 PM CDT - Updated June 27 at 6:09 AM
Growable Limbs for Bone Cancer Kids
Each year, nearly 2,000 American children will be diagnosed with bone cancer. Seventy percent of these kids will survive the disease, but it usually comes with a price, their limbs. Now a new implant eliminates the need for these children to undergo years of surgeries to replace implanted rods or bones as the children grow.
Eleven-year-old Kody Stabe is no stranger to hospitals. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer and the sixth most common type of cancer in children.
"It was in the growth plate in the knee, and by the time we found it, it was starting to race up the femur," said Kody’s father, Justin.
In the past, or even in another city, doctors probably would have amputated. Instead, Kody underwent a new procedure. "Right here is the part where they cut it open and took out the femur that was infected," he says. "And they replaced it with metal bone right there."
Kody’s new bone is called a Repiphysis implant. When doctors beam painless electromagnetic rays at the device -- called an expandable endoprosthesis -- an embedded spring expands, allowing the child’s limb to "grow."
"You know that little thing that you hold your toilet paper with? Those two cylinders with the spring? Really, that’s pretty much what it is," says Kody's orthopedic surgeon Ross M. Wilkins, M.D., of the Institute for Limb Preservation at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver.
Today, Kody is undergoing his latest lengthening procedure. And 30 seconds later his leg has grown six millimeters, which isn’t unlike what he could have in a month’s time if he were in a growth spurt, according to Dr. Wilkins. And it’s less traumatic than the standard methods used to keep two limbs the same length.
Dr. Wilkins says, "As opposed to four hours of surgery, huge cost, and huge hospitalization, he’ll go home in about an hour or so."
"After the last couple [of surgeries], we’ve actually just walked out of the hospital," Justin says. "It’s amazing." Kody will walk out again today, as soon as his dad can wake him from the anesthesia.
Dr. Wilkins says about a third of patients opt for anesthesia for the procedure -- especially the younger ones. He says most recipients are between ages 5 and 14.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Jeanne Fleagle Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (303) 832-5462