Sometimes you see something that just makes you take a break and marvel at how fantastic our medical technology has become. Here is one such example.
The Mayo Clinic offers an online “patient education” video series that describes various medical procedures, their effects on the individual, and what life is like after undergoing them. This particular video covers rotationplasty, a thoroughly amazing operation that I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.
Imagine being a young child and finding out that you’ve got bone cancer – a serious medical condition that often necessitates amputation. If you were an adult, the answer might be relatively simple: just amputate the parts of your body showing the cancerous cells and re-construct an artificial joint or bone structure to replace them. However, this only works because you’ve pretty much stopped growing, making it possible to fit a particular artificial body part to your body’s current size.
With children, the case isn’t so clear. Like an old pair of tennis shoes, kids tend to outgrow their new appendages as their bodies change shape and size, making the insertion of an artificial limb an incredibly difficult procedure that often necessitates multiple surgeries. The problem is that you are removing a living, growing biological structure and replacing it with something static that cannot adjust itself to your constantly-changing body.
Basically, rotationplasty means removing the patient’s knee, then taking the foot, rotating it 180 degrees, and reattaching it to the body. I’m going to say it one more time just to make sure you got that – they reattach your foot to your thigh…..backwards!
As a result, the individual can now use their foot as a knee, bending their “ankle” to simulate everything from running to jumping to dancing to all the other activities little kids are supposed to do. Beyond that, since your new joint is a foot, it isn’t prone to the structural damage and wear and tear that artificial limbs undergo over time. It’s an amazingly empowering procedure, especially given that the alternative is complete amputation.
It’s kind of difficult to conceptualize without seeing the result, so I’ll defer further explanation to the video. This is truly a impressive feat of humankind.