COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- When children have osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, the most common options are to either amputate the arm or leg or implant a prosthesis that requires multiple difficult surgeries. Now, an experimental device expands as children grow … without surgery.
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At 16 years old, Andres Monzalvo has beaten the odds. He's survived a rare form of bone cancer -- one that would normally have meant amputating his leg.
"I can't imagine just not having my leg," Monsalvo told Ivanhoe. "That would be pretty sad."
Seven years ago when Monsalvo was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, orthopaedic surgeons that specialize in musculoskeletal oncology, or bone cancers, removed his entire femur to save his life.
"This is a young boy who otherwise may have had an amputation or multiple operations to make his leg lengths equal by the time he was done growing," Joel Mayerson, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, told Ivanhoe.
Instead, Monsalvo had just one surgery to get an experimental implant that expands.
"Eventually, when he was done growing, we had lengthened him about 11 centimeters, which is a little over four inches," Dr. Mayerson said.
Inside the implant is a coiled spring covered with hard plastic. An electromagnetic device over the outside of the leg heats up the metal bar on the inside which melts the plastic. Over time, this expands the spring and lengthens the leg.
"It felt pretty weird, like I could feel the muscle stretching," Monsalvo said.
Through the years, his leg was lengthened about a half-inch at a time as he grew. It took just seconds and no incisions. Monsalvo now has an adult prosthesis with more range of motion.
"The only thing I would say I can't do is I can't run," Monsalvo said.
No running and a slight limp are nothing compared to how things might have been.
"I can basically do whatever I want," Monsalvo added.
Bone sarcomas are relatively rare. There are 2,500 to 3,000 cases each year, mostly in children. The expandable implant can also be used in a child's arm.