Bionic Reporter

Island femur

September 12th, 2013

In the early 1980s, maybe earlier, the Cleveland Clinic was at the forefront of "limb salvage" surgery -- saving limbs from amputation by replacing the joints and bones.

For bone  cancer patients like myself (and there were at least three other teen-agers I remember specifically having pretty much the same joint replacement surgery I had at the Cleveland Clinic) that meant replacing the femur -- the largest bone in the human body -- and the associated joints (knee and hip).

Patients have, I assume, done fairly well (again, like myself). But some of us also have developed staph infection and other associated problems that have required more attention than just the normal revisions to replace aging hardware.

Enter Dr. Viktor Krebs, who began treating these infections and developing his own unique two-stage procedure for eradicating staph infections.¹

This involves replacing all of the hardware ... twice.² The first surgery involves removing the femur and all of the associated hardware (knee/hip replacements) and inserting a temporary "spacer," a prosthetic femur filled with antibiotics that will work to kill all of the staph-related bacteria. Because it is temporary, it only works at the hip joint -- the knee does not bend. That prosthesis will remain in place for two months or so. Once that time is up, the area is tested to see if the antibiotics have worked and the bacteria has subsided. If so, then the entire process is repeated, this time with the permanent replacement parts: a new femur, new knee and new hip.

Dr. Krebs has successfully performed this two-step procedure on "12 to 13" patients. So I would be patient No. 14 or so. While this is hardly "routine" surgery, it's still enough to have a viable track record (and only one recurrence of an infection so far -- so those odds seem pretty good).

While all of that may sound terrible, I'm actually looking forward to getting the state-of-the-art hardware. Maybe I can even back to a golf course when this is all done.

I suppose it's not technically bionic, but it's still enough to set off metal detectors at airports and/or the federal building. (For anyone who's ever had to endure a TSA pat down because you forgot to remove your belt buckle, sorry, I have little sympathy for you -- I've been going through that whole pat down process since before there even was a TSA, 1985 to be exact. =)

Skynet ... take me away!!!


¹ -- Virtually all of the information presented here is based on a phone call I had with Dr. Krebs.

² -- Do yourself a favor and don't EVER do a Google image search of  'femur replacement surgery.'

One Response to “Island femur”

  1. Dave Hollingsworth:

    Great post -- and *fantastic* title pun!

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