For children, removing a tumor in or around a major joint can be particularly challenging, as it frequently requires removing one or more growth plates. As a result, the child’s growth is impacted, with the involved limb expected to grow less than the opposite side. In the past, a child would undergo multiple major surgeries to adjust the implant as he or she continued to grow. Today, it is possible to use a growing implant, which extends or lengthens over time. This permits a child’s limb to keep up with the opposite side, maintaining anatomic symmetry. This provides obvious benefits in functionality, comfort, and aesthetics for the patient.
Growing implants can be minimally invasive or non-invasive. A minimally invasive implant requires a minor surgical procedure for each lengthening, during which one or two small incisions are needed. Surgeons introduce small surgical screwdrivers through the incisions. By rotating these drivers, the implant lengthens. After an acceptable length has been achieved, the incisions are closed and the patient is awakened from anesthesia. The patient can immediately walk on the implant and often can go home the same day with minimal discomfort, which usually resolves in one to two days.
A non-invasive growing implant does not require additional surgery or anesthesia. Instead, these implants are lengthened internally using a magnet to rotate a gearbox inside the implant. The patient can remain awake during this process with minimal to no discomfort. The lengthening happens in-office and takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes. The patient can walk on the implant immediately and go home directly following the lengthening.
Growing implants represent patient-specific and cutting-edge orthopedic implant technology. These implants are reserved for a small group of pediatric patients with unique reconstructive challenges owing to their continued growth potentials. This individualized reconstructive method avoids the need for amputation or other more ablative surgeries, allowing the restoration of routine function in a majority of patients.