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The Ilizarov Procedure

For patients who are Ilizarov candidates, undergoing this extensive surgical and rehabilitative procedure may mean the difference between living with a deformity or having that deformity corrected.

A few examples of people who could benefit from the Ilizarov procedure include:

  • A young girl born with one leg four inches shorter than the other
  • A car accident victim whose leg would otherwise be amputated
  • A cancer patient whose arm is deteriorated by a tumor.

The Ilizarov method provides a way to lengthen, angulate or rotate the position of a bone to correct a deformed limb. The method can be used to correct:

Congenital deformities, such as club foot, limb-length discrepancies or false joints, traumatic injuries, such as malunited fractures, stiff joints or fractures with severe soft-tissue loss, bone abscesses (osteomyelitis) caused by infections or tumors.

A metal frame that encircles the limb or a monolateral rail frame is attached to the underlying bone by pins inserted through the bone and limb. The external rings are linked to each other by threaded rods and hinges that allow the patient and medical team to move and position the bones.

The Automator lengthens the bone and stimulates cells to regenerate, thus creating new bone that is as strong as the original bone. There are a number of external frames used by surgeons to position and hold the bones during a lengthening procedure.  The Automator can be attached to nearly all commonly available frames so patients can have the comfort of automatic distraction rather than making their own lengthening adjustments.

Bones can be moved or stretched about one millimeter per day, averaging about one inch per month. For every month that the Ilizarov device is used to move the bone, the patient must wear the frame for an additional month or more to allow the bone to strengthen.

Extensive physical therapy is used before and during this entire process and may continue for several months afterward in order to make the limb as fully functional as possible.

Depending on the case, the entire process may require several months to complete.