Dubai: Doctors lengthen man's leg with AI-assisted surgery

The rare, intricate operation is the first of its kind to be performed in the Middle East



Reuters file for illustrative purposes
Reuters file for illustrative purposes

By Web Desk

Published: Sun 20 Feb 2022, 4:56 PM

Using 'smart screws' and artificial intelligence, doctors in the UAE have successfully lengthened an Emirati man's leg.

The rare, intricate operation is the first of its kind to be performed in the Middle East. The 25-year-old man had been suffering from a congenital defect, due to which his right leg was 9cm shorter than his left. The imbalance affected his pelvic region, causing severe lower back pain.

Dr Bilal Al Yafoui, head of the Orthopaedics and Trauma Department at Rashid Hospital, performed the operation.

"The operation was fraught with risks, especially since international protocols provide for lengthening operations of only 4 to 5cm, and it is usually performed either in the shin or thigh," he said.

The biggest challenge was to lengthen the shin and femur bones and insert two nails simultaneously to ensure both legs were equally long, Dr Al Yafoui said.

Dr Al Yafoui was aided by Dr Muhammad Sanad Al Rifai, an orthopaedic consultant, and Dr Ahmed Khairy, an orthopaedic specialist.

According to Dr Al Rifai, leg length differences that exceed 4cm cause a 'violent imbalance' in patients and can lead to unbearable pain.

"The decision was to lengthen 9cm in total - 5cm in the shin bone and 4cm in the thigh bone," he said.

The device used elongated 'smart path' screws, which were inserted into the two bones through very small holes. Two magnetic fields are at play here: One on the inside and one on the outside.

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When the artificially-intelligent device is turned on, both magnets interact with each other, as well as with the screws, thereby lengthening the bones. The two screws will increase in length by about 1 to 1.5mm in a minute. This process repeats itself over eight-hour gaps throughout the day.

"The patient was discharged on the second day after received training on how to use the device, and it can be used from anywhere," said Dr Al Rifai. He added that the entire treatment takes place over a period of six to nine months.


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