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Orthopaedic surgeon gives patient a leg up - by saving it

John Wyrick, MD, is the Tristate's expert in limb lengthening and limb salvaging

Ask Robert Moore, 61, of Louisville, Kentucky about motorcycle safety and he’ll tell you that good riding gear is essential; especially if you accidently get slammed into by another vehicle, for example a car that’s going 70 mph. Then he’ll also tell you how the care, and the limb lengthening procedure, he received at University of Cincinnati (UC) Medical Center saved his life … and his leg.

“Luckily, I was wearing good riding gear,” Moore says, recalling the April 16, 2016 accident on I-71, near Sparta, that threw him from his motorcycle, landed him on the asphalt and into the emergency department at UC Medical Center, a Level I adult trauma center. While Moore barely had an external scratch, he suffered multiple internal injuries including a broken back, broken neck, broken ankles and 27 additional fractures.

“I couldn’t remember the accident — however I knew my chances weren’t good in the beginning,” he says.

After 18 days in the hospital, under the care of UC Health orthopedic surgeon Michael Archdeacon, MD, for his broken bones, Moore made remarkable progress and was ready for physical therapy. He was transferred to another health system in Louisville, where he spent a month in a rehabilitation facility and was discharged to his home.

Recovery was still far from over.

Over the next several months, a new infection began destroying the bone in his right leg, near the ankle. Once diagnosed, he says he knew he needed to get back to UC Health and he was right. In September 2016 he traveled back to see Archdeacon who immediately pointed him to his colleague, the Tristate’s expert in bone infections, John Wyrick, MD, a professor of orthopaedic surgery and a UC Health physician.

Dr. Wyrick standing in the operating room at the hospital

John Wyrick, MD, is the Tristate's leading expert on limb lengthening and limb salvage. Photo/ Colleen Kelley/ AHC Communication Services.

“John takes the cases that no one else can successfully tackle,” says Archdeacon, who is the Peter J. Stern Professor and Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, where Wyrick has been on faculty since 1992.

Wyrick, like most orthopaedic surgeons, started out as a generalist, treating everything from sprains to dislocations to breaks and over 25 years at UC honed his expertise; becoming widely known as an expert in treating trauma to the upper extremities and also in treating diseased and deformed bones, caused congenitally or by trauma.

“I’ve seen a lot of situations that have been operated on multiple times by other people. It’s when they can’t handle it anymore, when it’s failed, that’s when I usually get a call, and not infrequently, on the verge of amputation,” says Wyrick. 

Moore’s case, he says, is among one of those he calls his “pretty cool saves” as he explains having to cut a section of the infected bone away at the ankle, reconnect the ankle to the shortened bone, and place Moore in a limb lengthening device—a cage called an external fixator with screws that Moore had to hand turn on a schedule for nine months.  

leg in a lengthening cage

Robert Moore's leg after a motorcycle accident destroyed bone tissues. A limb lengthening procedure helped him heal.

Another device Wyrick employs for limb lengthening is cageless and uses an external magnet to lengthen the rod.

Wyrick says he performs about 50 to 60 limb lengthening or limb salvage procedures a year.

Moore, although now disabled from the accident and only able to “walk and function somewhat,” says he realizes how close he came to losing his leg and how much faith he put in Wyrick from the get-go, even when he was sent home with the instructions on how to crank the device—solo.   

“He said this is what you need to do and I did it. I had enough respect for him and him for me to do what he said.” 

Robert Moore and John Wyrick standing together

Robert Moore and John Wyrick, MD.

 

The two men actually developed a bond, with Moore contacting Wyrick regularly to let him know how he’s doing and what milestone he may have accomplished, like learning to brake with his left foot.     

”I often develop a very close relationship, even friendship, with my limb salvage patients because the process often lasts for one to two years” says Wyrick.

As for motorcycle riding, however Moore says that ended the day of the accident.

“I had ridden over 600,000 motorcycle miles in 49 states and Canada and I lived through this one. That was enough.”

Featured photo at top/ Colleen Kelley/ AHC Communication Services.