Living with a bone borrowed from a dead person is indeed something uncommon. But this rarity will soon change as Bengaluru has got a bone bank about eight months ago. In fact, it has already helped doctors to save a homemaker’s elbow from being amputated. The patient, a 39-year-old Kalamma from Mandya, had been suffering from immense pain in her right elbow for the past three years. Doctors in Mysore diagnosed the problem as bone cancer. The tumour was surgically removed. But when it resurfaced, doctors advised her to amputate her arm. Desperate to save her arm, Kalamma approached a few other hospitals, before consultant orthopedic oncosurgeon Dr. Srinivas CH gave her an alternative solution. “Kalamma had undergone several surgeries but the tumour was recurring. Everyone she consulted, recommended her to undergo an amputation. We suggested that a cadaver bone grafting could save her elbow,” said Dr. Srinivas. Surgeons then contacted the bone bank.
When they came across a suitable match, they began a unique limb-saving surgery. They first completely removed the tumour before reconstructing the elbow joint with Allogenic Bone Graft (large bone graft). “Bone from cadaver was cut to the desired shape using a medical saw and fixed with cement and screws. For prosthetics that followed bone grafting, we had ordered a special titanium joint. During the process, the patient lost some skin. It necessitated plastic surgery to cover the elbow and implants,” explained Dr. Srinivas. The plastic surgery was carried out by Dr. Madhusudan. Approximately 10 cm of bone that was affected by the tumour was removed and replaced in a seven-hour surgery. Dr. Srinivas has said that this kind of surgery, involving cadaver bone and prosthesis, had never been carried out on an elbow in India before. Six months has passed by since the surgery and Kalamma has undergone several sessions of physiotherapy as part of the follow-up process. Today, she is free of cancer and goes about with her household chores with a smile on her face. “I do not know whose bone I am living with, but I will always pray for the donor’s family. In death, the person gave me a fresh lease of life,” Kalamma said. The bone bank which began operations recently is indeed a blessing.
It is one of its kind in the country and is especially helpful in cases of massive allograft or large bone grafting. Dr Sundresh, orthopedic specialist and head of bone bank says, “Cadaver bone is a boon for bone cancer patients. Earlier, bones had to be imported. With increasing awareness, many citizens are coming forward to donate their organs after their death.” To add on this blessing, bone transplant also has a few other advantages as compared to other organs. According to Dr Srinivas the chances of rejection by the recipient’s body—like in the case of liver or kidney transplant—are less.