MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A four-wheeler ride with family and friends on a gorgeous day in July 2011 took a terrible turn when 11-year-old Michael Duggan unexpectedly wrecked his ATV. His father, Dan Duggan, of Swanton, Maryland, rushed him to the local hospital, where he was transferred to the WVU Medicine Ruby Memorial Hospital Emergency Department. Under the care of pediatric orthopaedic surgeon John Lubicky, M.D., Michael would become the first patient in West Virginia to undergo leg lengthening with a magnetic implant.
On the night of the accident, X-rays showed that Michael’s right femur, or thigh bone, was fractured, and the growth plate at the lower end of his right knee was also significantly damaged. Dr. Lubicky realigned the femur, secured the bone with large pins, and applied a cast.
“That night, we knew that Michael would have a leg-length discrepancy,” Dan Duggan said. “At 11 years old, we didn’t know how much it was going to be – a little bit or a lot. It was just a waiting game.”
Lubicky gave the Duggans two options: have Michael’s left growth plate removed, so his left leg would remain shorter and match the length of the right leg or wait until he was fully grown and have a rod inserted for a leg-lengthening procedure. They decided to wait a few years until Michael was done growing and have his right leg lengthened. When he reached that point, there was a noticeable leg-length difference, and Michael had a limp and pain while walking.
Lubicky told the family about the PRECICE Intramedullary Limb Lengthening System, a new, less-invasive leg-lengthening procedure, where a magnetically-driven implant is used instead of a bulky metal device worn on the outside of the leg.
“This new technology allows us to implant a rod with magnetic motors. You hold a magnet over top of the area several times a day, and it lengthens the bone,” Lubicky said. “It doesn’t hurt the child because we do it at such small amounts – a third of a millimeter three times a day. Parents can do this at home and are instructed on how to use the magnets.”
It was a huge sense of relief for the family when Michael was able to get the magnetic implant in November 2015.
“It worked well for us,” Dan Duggan said. “Nothing went wrong. It was an absolute gain with a lot less risk and a smoother procedure.”
Michael, now 16, has been walking without crutches since February, and he doesn’t feel any pain or notice the rod in his leg. He enjoys being active in club sports again at his high school.
“It’s almost like it didn’t happen really,” Michael Duggan said. “I deal with pain a lot better. This made me stronger.”
Photo caption: Michael Duggan at age 11 (top photo) and pictured (center, bottom photo) with Dr. John Lubicky, WVU Medicine pediatric orthopaedic surgeon (left), and his father, Dan Duggan.