Revolutionary bionic-bone replacement surgery in UK
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.”