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New technology lengthens limbs with remote control

Shattered growth plates no longer a problem for some

A remote control is helping people with bone injuries electronically lengthen their limbs.

When Jason Carroll was 11-years-old, he shattered the growth plate in his right leg while playing football.

"And I heard it break and then I just remember getting pulled into the ambulance," Carroll said.

The damage to his growth plate led to his right leg being an inch and a half shorter than his left.

"People would ask why you limping and stuff like that," he said.

A new technology called Precice is the first FDA approved internal limb lengthening system designed with a remote control.

"It's designed to be a lot smaller, can fit into more patients with different sizes of bones," said Dr. Shawn Standard, the head of pediatric orthopedics at the International Center for Limb Lengthening at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, and one of Precice's developers.

A telescopic titanium rod is placed inside the patient's thigh bone or shin. Then a remote control magnetic generator is put over the skin where the rod is implanted for a few minutes several times a day.

"And as you turn on the magnetic driver, the rod will actually pull apart and lengthen the bone," Dr. Standard said.

Patients can expect to grow an average of a millimeter a day or a little over an inch in one month with a small amount of pain.

"It was a lot easier than I expected, like no pain with it," Carroll said.

After the legs are lengthened with the Precice system, the titanium rods are removed. The remote-controlled treatment is not for everyone. Dr. Standard said patients don't qualify if their bones aren't long or wide enough for the device. People with significant deformities aren't candidates either.