Child With Bone Disease Walks for the First Time Following Operation

An innovative operation using telescoping rods performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan enabled a young Long Island boy to walk for the first time.

Daniel Green, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery, implanted the metal rods into the leg bones of Ismael Vega, now 5 years old, who was born with osteogenesis imperfect (OI), which caused his bones to be brittle and weak. An innovation in OI surgery, the telescoping rods get longer as the child grows, avoiding the need for repeated operations. Ismael was 3 years old at the time of the operation.

Before the surgery, Vega was carried around by his parents or used a stroller. His bones were so fragile that by the time he was 3 years old, he suffered 12 broken bones and more than 100 microfractures.

Multiple fractures had caused Ismael’s thigh bones to be severely bent.

“The x-rays showed that his femur bone, which was supposed to be straight, was bent at 90 degrees,” Green stated in a press release. “His bones were so weak they were having microscopic fractures over and over again, and this led his femur bone to develop these massive deformities or curves. His other thigh bone was bent at 45 degrees.”

The surgery entailed placing metal rods in Ismael’s bones to make them straight, prevent future fractures and enable him to walk.

“Placing rods in the long bones of the legs is one of the most common surgeries performed in patients with OI,” Green stated. “The advantage these days is the telescoping rods – they’re a great advance. In recent years, we’ve seen excellent results in many cases.”

The special rod, which self-elongates as the child grows, eliminates the need for repeated surgeries to change rods as the child gains height.

Following the operation, Ismael’s wore casts from his toes to his hips for 5 weeks and then had months of intensive physical therapy.

“I have no words to explain how happy I was when Ismael walked for the first time. We feel that Dr. Green was sent from heaven. Without him, Ismael would not be walking.” Patricia Vega, who now speaks to other parents of children with OI, stated. “Dr. Green is not just a doctor, he’s a person with heart. He treated my son as more than a patient, he treated him as if he were part of his family.”

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