Tibial osteomyelitis
Tibial osteomyelitis

And Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard… The lame walk.”  Luke 7:22

Osteomyelitis is a devastating condition that affects many in Ethiopia.  An infection sets in and literally destroys the bone.  Not long ago, we had a little girl come to us who suffered from osteomyelitis of the tibia.  Her x-ray is pictured to the right.

The tibia supports 85% of the weight in the leg.  In the x-ray, it is the large bone on the right.  (The other smaller bone in the leg is called the fibula, and cannot bear the child’s weight alone.)  You can see that even after the infection is cleared by antibiotics, there is a large section of bone that is literally just gone.  This child could not run, walk, play, or any of that.  She was “lame” in the truest sense of the word.

St.ep 1: Putting the device on
St.ep 1: Putting the device on

What can be done?  There is an amazing technology called bone transport that allows us to heal this condition.   In the photo on the left, you can see that we apply a device (made by Orthofix) to the leg.  There is an external component that is adjustable, and the internal components are the screws that you see.  A cut is made in the bone between the uppermost set and the middle set of screws (you can just see the cut in the picture).  Then little by little, the external part of the device is adjusted, distracting the two pieces of bone.

Think of the top bone piece in the picture as the dock and the middle piece as the boat.  As the device is adjusted, the “boat” leaves the “dock” and begins to migrate down.  The adjustment is slow – 4 times per day, 1/4 mm per adjustment – to minimize pain.  As the little boat of bone moves southward at a rate of 1mm per day, it leaves a trail of bone dust in its wake.  From this bone dust, the body generates new healthy bone.

bone transport 2
Bone boat heading south

The next picture shows the distracted bone pieces after many days of incremental adjustments.  The bone dust is barely visible as a trail between the two.  It is here where the new bone is growing.  As the “boat” nears the “dock” on the other side, the adjustment becomes harder and harder to make.  This is the sign that the little piece of bone has arrived at the other “dock”.  Then, a small piece of bone is taken from the hip and placed at this dock to stimulate the “boat” to fuse there.

The little girl spent some time in a cast while the new bone grew in and became strong enough to bear weight.  Now, she is healed and running around and playing on that leg.  Below, she is pictured with our orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Duane Anderson.    Dr. Anderson spends a long time with these patients and their families, as they are in the hospital for many weeks and months for this procedure.  He shares not just his orthopedic expertise, but also how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We are thrilled to see these patients walk again, but more than anything, we rejoice to see them put their faith and trust in Christ.

The patient with Dr. Anderson
The patient with Dr. Anderson




St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation
(630) 510-2222
St. Luke's Health Care Foundation PO Box 4465
Wheaton, IL 60189-4465