Lengthening Legs with Implants That Grow

FRESNO, Calif.

For Robert Rosser, two-inch lifts in his left shoe were part of his life for 30 years. A childhood bone infection interfered with the normal growth of his leg, making every step hurt.

"It was a sharp, sort of stabbing pain in my left ankle, primarily in my left ankle and left knee," Rosser told Ivanhoe.

This implant, called an intramedullary skeletal kinetic distractor, or ISKD, changed everything. Emory orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Robert Bruce says unlike external devices traditionally used to increase bone length, this device works from the inside, stimulated by the patient's own movement.

"It's a racheting mechanism," Dr. Bruce explained. "It's a one-way racheting mechanism, and by walking and by moving, the cyclical motion of the extremity deploys that racheting mechanism."

"Five times a day, this device, the alarm would go off, telling me, 'Robert, it's time to measure,'" Rosser recalled.

Day by day, and millimeter by millimeter, this monitor helped Rosser measure his progress. "I lengthened 1.5 millimeters, 1.5," Rosser said.

His left leg gradually lengthened about two inches to catch up with his right.

After his surgery, Rosser's walking a couple miles a day and even finished his first 10K, doing things he never imagined he could without pain.

"When you can do things that others do," explained Rosser. "When you can wear golf shoes for the first time in your life, when you can walk a road race, those are the things."

Now, he's celebrating his success every step of the way.

The internal ISKD implant is FDA approved. It's designed to lengthen for a pre-determined distance and then stop. Full recovery generally takes at least a year.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Melissa Medalie at mmedalie@ivanhoe.com

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