Rambam Health Care Campus has become a sought-after center for cutting-edge orthopedic surgery that helps extend the limbs. After undergoing painful and complex surgery, young people come to Rambam from all over the country and even from abroad, filled with hope.
Lubomir Stoykov, 17, from Sofia, Bulgaria, was born with a congenital defect that caused one of his thighs to shorten. In the quest for improved quality of life, he underwent multiple surgeries over the years to extend his shorter limb, but was still left with a six-inch difference between his two legs – a problem the doctors in his country of origin could not solve. Stoykov recently flew to Haifa to undergo surgery using a new technology. The surgical procedure at Rambam completely changed the position of his hip and gave him hope for normal leg function.
This is an innovative procedure performed in a limited number of Israeli hospitals. A special nail is inserted into the bone marrow of the limb to be extended. The nail serves two purposes: it fixates the bone following a surgical fracture to reshape the limb, and it extends the bone using an externally-controlled magnetic device.
"The idea is simple," explains Professor Mark Eidelman, Director of the Pediatric Orthopedics Unit in Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital, who performs the surgery. "The magnetic nail contains a mechanism that allows us to give a computerized order for extension each day. As the nail gently separates the broken bones, a natural process occurs whereby the body attempts to heal the fracture by creating bone, tendon, muscle, and nerve tissues. This manipulation actually causes the limb to lengthen, and replaces previously used procedures that resulted in multiple repeat surgeries. Lubomir is a young man who has already undergone a number of complex surgeries,” adds Professor Eidelman. “With this surgery at Rambam, we expect to resolve the issue.”
The innovative procedure came into use at Rambam two years ago, and has since been performed more than 25 times, turning the hospital into a medical center with extensive experience with this operation.
Just days before Stoykov’s surgery, a 15-year-old girl from Bratislava, Slovakia, arrived at the Rambam to undergo another surgical procedure for limb extension. Annabel Galova was born with a rare syndrome that caused deformities in her extremities, Congenital Femoral Deficiency. As a result, Galova has a short calf and deformities in her arms and legs. Over the years, she had undergone repeated surgeries to extend her limbs and improve her quality of life. Several of these operations were performed by a well-known European surgeon, but were unsuccessful. Upon arriving at Rambam, Professor Eidelman operated on the young woman, with the goal of repairing her knee and performing a limb extension with the help of an external fixture.
"The young woman’s prior surgeries eventually caused her knee to fall apart," recalls Professor Eidelman. "When I was in Bratislava for a lecture, I met the chief orthopedic surgeon at the city's main hospital and he sought advice. In the end, it was decided to fly the girl to Rambam.”
In both cases, these procedures were funded by the governments of the countries of origin of the patients. “These are procedures that change the reality for these patients," concludes Professor Eidelman. "After living their entire lives with challenging disabilities and undergoing complex surgeries, a single operation became available, that could provide them with a solution – and a relatively short distance from their home countries. Rambam's experience in using this innovative technology has made the hospital a hot spot for patients in Israel and from abroad. Within a few weeks, these two young people will begin to walk and make regular use of their limbs. With all of their lives ahead of them, it has tremendous significance.”