Bionic bone picks up another award

Staff at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore are once again celebrating their success after picking up another award for their revolutionary 'bionic bone' for children with bone cancer.

health and soc care awardOrthopaedic Surgeon Mr Tim Briggs and Research Scientist, Jay Meswania from Bio Medical Engineering at Stanmore accepted the National Health and Social Care Award for the Best Innovative Device at a glittering ceremony in Docklands on Wednesday 7 July 2004.

Presenting them with the award was top TV celebrity Carole Smillie, Secretary of State for Health John Reid and Director of Research and Development for the NHS Professor Sally Davies.

The Awards recognise some of the best examples of dedication and personal commitment in health and social care across the UK and celebrate the achievements of the staff who work each and every day in the service of other people.

Bone cancer in children is rare but if it does strike it can require drastic surgery, which involves having the affected bone replaced with a metal replacement or 'prosthesis'. Because the prosthesis doesn't grow, a child needs further operations to lengthen it to prevent one leg becoming shorter than the other.

The bionic bone has changed all of this. Now it can be lengthened remotely mimicking natural growth of the bone. The whole lengthening procedure is carried out in the outpatients department by a specially trained nurse, and takes only 15 minutes. There is no need for surgery or anaesthetic.

In the past, children would go to the operating theatre for a small incision to be made in the leg. The surgeon would turn a screw to extend the prosthesis and the child would then have to spend at least five days in hospital recovering. A child would need drugs for pain relief, physiotherapy and there would always be the risk of infection. On average a young person would need this procedure about five times until they are 16.

The secret to the new device, designed on-site by Bio-Medical Engineering, University College London (UCL), is a tiny gear box. This is activated when a specially designed electromagnetic box is placed over the leg. The magnetic force activates the gearbox inside the prosthesis extending it by a specified amount. The magnet inside the gear box spins at 3,000 revolutions per minute and 13,000 revolutions are needed to extend the prosthesis by just one millimetre.

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