Revo­lu­tion­ary bionic-bone re­place­ment surgery in UK

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

PA­TIENTS fac­ing arm am­pu­ta­tion due to se­vere arthri­tis caused by a non-heal­ing frac­ture may have their limbs saved thanks to a revo­lu­tion­ary “bionic” bone re­place­ment.

This pi­o­neer­ing surgery in­volves re­plac­ing the bro­ken and arthritic sec­tion of bone with a cus­tom-made ti­ta­nium al­loy pros­the­sis, which is ar­tic­u­lated at the el­bow end, where it forms a hinge joint.

The first UK pa­tient to have one fit­ted is 67-year-old Julie Martin, a re­tired ca­reer ad­viser. She has spo­ken about how the op­er­a­tion ended 19 years of pain and dis­abil­ity that started when she broke her left el­bow in a bi­cy­cle ac­ci­dent in 1998.

Un­able to even lift a knife or fork or cup of tea, she has now re­gained use of her arm. She said: “It’s made such a huge dif­fer­ence to my life, be­cause be­ing in con­stant pain is so dif­fi­cult. It’s in­cred­i­ble to think my arm is part me, part me­tal – I joke that I now have a bionic arm.”

Al­though sim­i­lar pros­the­ses have been im­planted into bonecan­cer pa­tients, this is the first time one has been used as a so­lu­tion for arthri­tis brought on by a non-heal­ing frac­ture.

About 850 000 Bri­tons suf­fer a bro­ken bone each year, and around half are in the arm.

When an el­bow is frac­tured, the car­ti­lage – tis­sue lin­ing the joint, al­low­ing smooth move­ment – can be dam­aged and arthri­tis may de­velop with bone rub­bing on bone.

Eigh­teen months after her fall and fail­ing to heal, Martin had an el­bow re­place­ment. But in­fec­tion set in, so more surgery was re­quired. She had more than 20 op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing el­bow re­place­ments and bone and skin grafts.

As each im­plant loos­ened, it dam­aged bone, which dis­solved and was ab­sorbed by the body. It re­sulted in less bone to fix the next im­plant into, so she risked am­pu­ta­tion. The pain came from loos­en­ing im­plants mov­ing within the bone, and in­fec­tion.

Her sur­geon, Dr Amjid Ali, said: “We wanted to try to ease the pain and give her back some func­tion in the arm.”

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