Supporting the invention of a telescopic artificial bone
Metal prostheses are used to replace limb bones that have been destroyed by tumours or would otherwise require amputation. But until recently this has been problematic for children, as the implants need to be extended to keep up with the child’s natural rate of growth.
Making the implants ‘grow’ requires large incisions and the sudden lengthening can cause painful damage to the tissues around the implant, involving lengthy hospital stays and time to recover. In the mid 1980s, however, researchers Professor John Scales and Mr Rodney Sneath devised an extendable prosthesis that could grow without the need for major surgery.
Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, Action supported work to develop this idea and make it a reality. At first a way was found to adjust the length of the implant using key-hole surgery, then the researchers had a breakthrough and designed one containing a telescopic section that could be extended using magnetic force. This revolutionary implant closely mimics the natural growth of a child’s bones without the need for any painful, invasive surgery.
The device was successfully implanted into a 13-year old girl in 2002 and over 240 have since been implanted in 15 countries around the world.