UCL News


No more growing pains

12 December 2003

Researchers from UCL's Institute of Orthopaedics have invented an award-winning device that can help young patients with bone tumours avoid painful repeat surgery as their limbs grow.

The prosthesis is extended by an electromagnetic coil

Professor Gordon Blunn, Head of the Centre for Biomedical Engineering, leads the research team. He explained: "Young patients who receive treatment for malignant bone tumours are given extending prosthesis to accommodate growth in the affected limb. Up until now, this extension had to be carried out surgically. This leads to discomfort for the patient, extended hospitalisation, risk of infection and costly treatment."

The UCL team have overcome these problems with a telescopic implant that can be extended non-invasively. Constructed in two parts, the prosthesis can screw apart a millimetre at a time, and contains a magnet and a gearbox. Once implanted, the prosthesis is extended by placing the affected limb inside a coil that electronically generates a magnetic field and triggers the implant magnet to rotate in synchronisation, extending the prosthesis.

The device is the culmination of 11 years of research, and has recently been awarded the 'Innovation 2003' prize from Medical Futures. Professor Blunn said: "The outcome of the initial trial has been very positive. This development is suitable for patients over the age of ten and for large bones such as femur and tibia. Patients experienced no sensations of vibration, heat, stretching or any other discomfort. Most importantly, the extensions were achieved without surgery, discomfort or risk of infection."

Image: The prosthesis is extended by an electromagnetic coil.

To find out more about the device use the link below.

Link: UCL's Centre for Biomedical Engineering