Doctors use magnetism to lengthen limbs at the University of Colorado Hospital

AURORA, Colo. — Help is here for those who suffer from one limb that is shorter than the other.

What can be a debilitating disorder, can now be fixed with new technology rolled out by the University of Colorado Hospital.

Kenneth Axelson, who has Type I diabetes found out just how debilitating uneven limbs can be after he took a fall that he can’t remember.

“I had a diabetic reaction and before I could get the blood sugar up, I wound up with two broken legs and how that happened, I don’t know,” Axelson said. "I went through nine surgeries and in the process of that over about two and a half years, I lost two inches of length on that leg.”

After years of struggling and being bound to a wheelchair, Axelson came to the University of Colorado Hospital.

The procedure to help Axelson and others like him takes about three months and can be done in the comfort of one's own home, with little to no pain.

“I surgically break the bone and then allow it to think that it’s fractured essentially and before it heals, I then gently pull it apart and new bone heals behind it,” said Dr. Jason Stoneback, Director of the Limb Restoration Program at the University of Colorado Hospital. 

Dr. Stoneback said he places a rod in the limb that has a magnetic device in the rod that allows it to lengthen when activated.  A magnetic controller is held over the leg by the patient at home and it emits a magnetic field that activated and drives the magnet in the rod to lengthen.

“It’s awesome, it’s, this is why I do what I do, it’s taking someone who had a really significant deformity or problem with an extremity and then restoring them back to their optimal self,” Dr. Stoneback said.

It gave Axelson the ability to walk again on his own, something he loves to do.

“I was a real active person before this started and I’m sure the muscles have atrophied in the meantime and to be able to get back into some sort of physical shape is a real blessing,” Axelson said.

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