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Wednesday, 20 August 2003

Ground-breaking surgery saves young boy's leg

A surgeon at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick has saved a young boy's leg by removing a cancerous femur (thigh) bone and replacing it with a unique, expandable prosthesis which 'grows' as the patient grows.

In the first operation of its kind in Australia and in the Southern Hemisphere, Dr Ian Woodgate implanted a RepiphysisTM Expandable Prosthesis into a child's femur during a five-hour operation at Sydney Children's Hospital last Friday.

As Australia's first recipient of a customised expandable prosthesis, Samuel Nakkan, 6, of Mortdale in Sydney's south, who has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma or 'bone cancer', will still be able to swim and ride his bike.

Even more importantly, Samuel will not require further surgery until he reaches adulthood, at which time a permanent non-expandable prosthesis will most likely be required.

Dr Woodgate said today once an expandable prosthesis has been implanted, it can be quickly and easily extended as often as necessary to match the length of the patient's other leg until they are fully grown.

This saves multiple surgeries and related costs and dramatically reduces recuperation and rehabilitation time, he said.

'The device's extension technology is based on a compressed spring which expands in an electromagnetic field,' Dr Woodgate said.

'A transmission ring is placed around the patient's leg and an electromagnetic field is generated around the prosthesis, heating up a locking mechanism.

'This softens a polymer tube in the mechanism, allowing the spring and implant to expand inside the patient's leg.'

Dr Woodgate said except for some initial, mild discomfort when the implant is expanded, Samuel should experience no further pain from his prosthesis.

Prior to Friday's surgery and the use of the RepiphysisTM implant, children
like Samuel diagnosed with bone cancer have usually faced amputation or
multiple surgical procedures to lengthen the leg until they reach adulthood.

Director of Sydney Children's Hospital Cancer Centre and Samuel's oncologist Dr Glenn Marshall said Samuel was first diagnosed in May this year with bone cancer in his upper left leg.

He said Samuel had responded very well to his first course of chemotherapy, which finished a fortnight ago.

'Samuel is expected to start a second course of chemotherapy within a week, which will probably finish up by Christmas,' Dr Marshall said.

'The use of this prosthesis allows Samuel to use his leg and be able to 'grow' during the recovery phase after his chemotherapy finishes, whereas in the past he would have either lost his leg or had one leg shorter than the other.'

The RepiphysisTM prosthesis is manufactured by United States company Wright Medical Technology Inc. and arrived in Australia from the US a week ago. Similar implants have been used in the United States and Europe for the past five years, with the youngest recipient so far being five years old.

For Further Information Contact:

Rachel Stewart, Public Affairs Manager Tel: 9382 3571 - Mob: 0411 730 842

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