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Rice University student engineers automate limb lengthening for kids
Date:4/23/2012

Another day, another four turns of the screw. That's just a part of life for people, primarily children, undergoing the long and difficult process of distraction osteogenesis, a method to correct bone deformities that leave one limb shorter than the other.

A team of Rice University undergraduates has invented a device they hope will make the process safer and easier.

In collaboration with Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston, the students came up with "LinDi," a self-adjusting, automated linear distractor. It eliminates manual manipulation of the screw with a motorized process that makes the gradual growth of new bone a more natural process. And for the first time in such a device, they have built in a force-feedback loop that protects fragile tissues and nerves from being overstressed.

To correct deformities suffered by as many as 10 million children due to trauma, infection or congenital causes, surgeons break a bone and apply a distractor that stretches the bone as it heals and gently nudges the arm or leg to a more appropriate length.

The distractor incorporates long pins sunk right into the bone on either side of the surgical break. As the bone heals, but before it sets, the patient uses an Allen wrench to give the drive screw a quarter turn four times a day and push the pins further apart a tiny bit at a time.

That's inconvenient, even risky if a child or parent forgets to make the adjustment, said Rice mechanical engineering student Raquel Kahn. And wearing the bulky brace is no treat, either.

Team members Kahn, Alvin Chou, Mario Gonzalez, Stephanie Herkes and Elaine Wong took LinDi on as their senior design capstone project at the behest of Gloria Gogola, an orthopedic hand and upper-extremity surgeon at Shriners who specializes in pediatrics.

"The process of limb lengthening -- essentially creating a localized mini-growth spurt -- works well for bones, but is very hard on the soft tis
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Contact: David Ruth
david@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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