Extreme Bowleggedness Requires Extreme Measures
An African girl with Blount disease can walk without pain after treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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Sanjay Gupta, MD, Everyday Health: I want to introduce you to a young woman who’s walking taller these days — about 10 inches taller.
This was Amarachi Austin-Okoh when she came to the Mayo Clinic from her home in Nigeria: 11 years old, and every step was painful.
Modesthur Austin-Okoh: I discovered it when she was 2 years old. Very sad. We were always crying for her.
Dr. Gupta: Children’s bones grow from the ends — areas called growth plates. In Amarachi’s case, the growth plate at the top of her shin bone, the tibia, was growing on the outside of the leg only, not on the inside. It’s a condition called Blount disease. So as she grew, Amarachi became increasing bowlegged.
Amarachi Austin-Okoh: It was very painful and hard. And then, if people were walking a distance or something, I would start walking slower and slower because it got harder and harder.
Todd Milbrandt, MD, Mayo Clinic Children’s Center: She came to us after having had surgeries already where she lived in Africa.
Dr. Gupta: To fix her legs, surgeons made a cut across both of her tibias, just below the knees, and attached external braces. Over three months, Amarachi adjusted those braces to bring her legs into alignment.
Stephen Andrew Sems, MD, Mayo Clinic Orthopedic Surgery: If you turn this, you’ll see that it’s getting shorter and also that the bones are moving in relationship to each other very gradually. We would have her turn this every day, the exact amount, until the bones were in the exact position that we wanted them to be.
Dr. Milbrandt: You have to now basically grow the bone again and correct it at the same time.
Amarachi Austin-Okoh: I’m excited now because it has opened a whole new horizon. I can do anything and everything I want to do.
Dr. Gupta: With Everyday Health, I’m Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Be well.
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