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Turning the Screws Begins

Posted by DarrenG on September 03, 2009

ilizarov-femurYesterday I had my appointment with the Consultant to start the leg ‘distraction’ phase or leg ‘lengthening’ as we might better know it.

It’s very simple. The middle of the frame has two rings held together with four long threaded bolts and nuts. The nuts have a special four sided head marked with 1 to four dots. Four times a day I have to grab my two 10mm spanners, undo the lock nut, turn the special nut one quarter turn and then lock it off. Then repeat for the other three. This whole process is repeated every 4hrs.

In theory each full turn equates to 1mm of lengthening. The idea being that the bone ends are kept just far enough apart that they continue to grow towards each other but not so far apart that the bone gives up the battle and of course not so close that they actually knit. Over time new bone is grown and the femur is lengthened.

If all goes to plan, I exercise as instructed, keep mobile, weight bear as much as possible and eat healthily then I should be able to grow the 25mm required in 25 days. Pin site infections will delay matters and other issues mean it is not en exact science so I have an appointment to go back in 3 weeks and a measurement can then be taken.  Once the golden number is achieved everything will be locked off and the bone allowed to knit, heal and strengthen for a few months.

Turning the nut isn’t painful in itself but it does cause the pin sites to be stretched and the bone aches. As the whole point of this procedure is to lengthen the limb it is another thing I’ll just have to get used to. It’s only day 2 so undoing the lock nuts is still a nerve wracking time. It’s only those 4 nuts and bolts that keep the two halves of my femur secure and stable after all!


Click Image for larger version

Still, It is nowhere near as bad as I had feared and each day I feel a little stronger. The worst aspect so far is nigh time. Every hour or so I get a spams in my leg which feels like someone has hit the bone with a hammer. Not conducive to great sleep and jolts you awake, heart beating rapidly. It is all over in a fraction of a second but not pleasant!


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