The amount of work and dedication he, his family, and others on his care team had is a testament to each. I could not ask for a better result or a better young man.William J. McKinnon, Jr., MD
It is not common for children to grow almost four inches in nine months, but that’s what Andrew Steadman did after a successful surgery at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) in 2019. Senior Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon William J. McKinnon, Jr., MD, made a controlled cut of Andrew’s femur bone and inserted a PRECICE® System rod down the middle. The magnetic nail inside it was spun by an electronic device Andrew placed on the outside of his leg that lengthened the rod over time.
“Andrew achieved five years of growth in a matter of months,” says McKinnon.
A rare case
Andrew injured himself when he was 11 years old during a snowball fight at a skate park in North Bennington, VT, where he and his family live. After jumping off a ramp, his right leg got caught while his upper body kept spinning, causing a fracture in the growth plate of his knee. Despite surgery and physical therapy, Andrew’s entire growth plate shut down. His leg didn’t grow from the age of 11 to 16.
An avid basketball player and self-described “active kid,” Andrew didn’t notice a problem until his freshman year of high school when he started experiencing pain in his back and right leg. At a basketball camp the next summer, “My coach was walking behind me and asked, ‘Is one of your legs shorter than the other?’ and I thought he was joking,” Andrew explains. “But my friends and siblings put books under my feet to measure me.”
After consultation with his local doctor and X-rays, Andrew was referred to CHaD because of its unique Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery Department with an initial referral diagnosis of scoliosis, due to the difference in his leg length: he was a little over three inches shorter on his right side.
“Andrew compensated pretty well. People can tolerate about an inch of difference between legs, but he experienced three times what the body can typically handle,” McKinnon says.
Motivation leads to success
Despite ongoing pain, Andrew worked the remote extender on his leg three times a day for three months after his surgery. He also had physical therapy (PT) at his local hospital and regular X-rays at CHaD.
“It gave me a mindset to never give up. Anything is possible—you just have to trust the process,” Andrew says. He went from a height of 5’11” to 6’3” and was able to play basketball the season after his surgery. He recently played in a men’s league basketball tournament in Troy, NY, and hopes to be recruited for college basketball this year.
McKinnon explains that Andrew’s last set of X-rays showed his bone has completely healed. “All I did was the surgery. Andrew was the one doing all the therapy and the lengthening—he did everything he needed to do,” McKinnon explains. “The amount of work and dedication he, his family and others on his care team had is a testament to each. I could not ask for a better result or a better young man.”
CHaD’s Pediatric Orthopaedic Team treats an average of 150 to 200 cases per year, from musculoskeletal and congenital conditions to acute injuries. For more information, visit chadkids.org.