Medical Q&As

Ilizarov frame - any information on it?

Do you have any information on the Ilizarov frame? In my experience there is a minority of wearers and there is very little information in Ireland about it. Also there are a lot of doctors who have very little knowledge on this matter.

The Ilizarov frame is an orthopaedic device that is named after Dr Gavriil Ilizarov, a Russian doctor, who invented it in the early 1950s. The device consists of a frame that surrounds the damaged limb and the bone is stabilised with a series of bolts and wires that extend from the external frame into the bone. It is a form of external fixation device that is used to repair complex fractures and latterly it has also been used to lengthen bone. It is a formidable looking device that essentially looks like a metal cage that surrounds the limb with bolts and wires extending from the external frame through the skin and into the bone. Traditionally bone fractures have been treated by “open reduction” and “internal fixation”. Open reduction means that the area of the fracture is opened up surgically and the bones are manipulated back into the correct alignment. Internal fixation refers to the insertion of a metal plate that secures the fractured bone in the correct position and allows the fracture to heal during the subsequent months. However, sometimes the bone fracture might be quite complex with the bone fractured into several separate fragments. In that scenario a metal plate would not be sufficient to stabilise the bone. It is in that specific context that an external fixation device would be considered. The Ilizarov frame is also used to lengthen a limb. In that scenario the bone is cut and the frame maintains the opposing sections of bone in close proximity. New bone forms in the gap between the two cut ends of bone and the gap is widened at the rate of 1 mm per day. This process of widening the gap continues over several months until the desired length has been achieved. When the desired length has been achieved the frame, bolts and wires are then removed in a final operation. As you have indicated in your query the device is not commonly used in Ireland hence the paucity of information available to you through Irish sources.