Carolinas HealthCare System

Standing Firm: Hunter's Story

Standing Firm: Hunter's StoryEleven-year-old Hunter was born with a discrepancy in the lengths of his legs, but he hasn’t let it slow him down. His mom Tracy says he learned to walk just like any other little boy and has been extremely active as he’s gotten older.

“He likes playing basketball, he likes swimming, he likes to play soccer,” she says. “But as he started getting older, he had a limp that started to hurt his back.”

Unfortunately, as he grew, so did the inconsistency between his legs, until there was a two inch difference. Brian Brighton, MD, pediatric orthopedic surgeon, had Hunter tried less invasive methods, but they weren’t right for him.

“We tried shoe lifts, but Hunter kept twisting his ankle in them,” Tracy says.

In January 2014, Dr. Brighton suggested a type of treatment that had just become an option for pediatric patients. In this new procedure, a magnetically controlled nail is surgically inserted into the leg. The patient then uses an external remote control to expand the nail, lengthening the patient's leg without a bulky external apparatus. “Being able to use this device made it much easier for him,” Dr. Brighton said.

In April, they decided the time had come. The nail was inserted and Hunter used the remote control every day to expand the nail incrementally. “We went up to a millimeter a day,” Tracy said. “And he had to go to 50 millimeters (making up the two-inch difference).”

This process was challenging for Hunter because, as an otherwise active boy, he had some initial weight bearing restrictions and some limited mobility. “When he finished the lengthening process, Hunter began attending rehabilitation sessions twice a week. Hunter is now able to walk more normally, and Tracy says she expects him to have more fun than ever doing his favorite activities.

When, at last, he finished the process, Hunter began attending rehabilitation sessions twice a week. One month in, he is able to walk again and Tracy says she expects him to have more fun than ever doing his favorite activities.

“Now, when he runs, he won’t have the discrepancy and it won’t hurt his back as much. His recovery has been great,” she says. “I am so glad I met Dr. Brighton and that he talked to me about doing this. It was easier than the contraption on the outside of the leg. It just made it a whole lot easier. Dr. Brighton, I think the world of him."