YOUR HEALTH: Taking the guesswork out of fixing fractured bones

HOUSTON, Texas – Treating fractured bones is actually more complicated than you might think.

Doctor Ashvin Dewan has been there.

A patient is in the ER and he's called in to fix their broken femur.   It's a rush against time.

"So the stress is building."

But when it comes to a long bone surgery, fixing a fracture, time isn't on his side.

The surgery involves placing a rod in the patient's leg and securing the rod through a hole at the bottom.

That means drilling blind through hard bone.

" It's kind of like threading a needle with thread but the only differences you're trying to thread the needle from 50 feet away.," explained Dr. Dewan, an orthopedic surgeon at Houston's Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.

Right now, doctors use a series of x-rays to help them find the hole in the rod.

But it's a time-consuming process.

"As I'm taking these multiple x-rays the pressure is mounting."

It exposes patients and staff to more radiation.

And then there's the risk of missing.

"I was just like there needs to be a better way to do this," said Dr. Dewan.

So he turned to an unlikely group: five undergraduate students at his alma mater, Rice University.

"It was many, many weeks of getting better and better and better," said Ian Frankel, a mechanical engineering student.

The students invented a device that locates the hole in the rod by detecting magnetic fields.

Dr. Dewan believes it could shorten the process by 60% to 80% saving valuable time.

When he says it matters most.

"So I think that's a substantial improvement in the existing process and I think it really could benefit the patient.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

 

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