Limb Reconstructive Surgery FAQs

  1. Who is a candidate for limb reconstruction surgery?
  2. When would someone not be a candidate for bone reconstruction surgery?
  3. What materials are used to reconstruct the bone?
  4. When is limb reconstruction surgery performed?
  5. How is limb reconstruction surgery performed?
  6. How long is limb reconstruction surgery?
  7. What are the risks of limb reconstruction surgery?
  8. What is the rehabilitation time after limb reconstruction surgery?

1. Who is a candidate for limb reconstruction surgery?
Patients who are candidates include those who have undergone surgery to remove a tumor, patients with a failed healing of a fracture and those who have suffered a traumatic injury to an extremity.

2. When would someone not be a candidate for bone reconstruction surgery?
If there are multiple tumors in the bones, surgery may not be the best option. In this situation, the decision to have surgery is between the patient and surgeon, and is based on the type of cancer, where it has spread in the bones and the patient's functional status. If patients do not qualify for surgery they may be offered treatment with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, both of these in combination (chemoradiation), another drug regimen or participation in a clinical trial investigating a new treatment.

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3. What materials are used to reconstruct the bone?
Virginia Mason's orthopedic surgeons use modular bone and joint replacements, metal plates and screws, thin metal rods, bone cement and bone transplant tissue. The surgeon may use a patient's own tissue, harvested from another site in the body, or tissue from a donor to reconstruct the bone. The type and size of materials used will depend on the surgery being performed and the amount of reconstruction required.

4. When is limb reconstruction surgery performed?
In patients with cancer, limb reconstruction surgery is performed at the same time as surgery to remove the tumor. Surgery may occur before or after a course of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Limb reconstruction also is indicated when a fracture has not healed properly or when there is traumatic injury to an extremity.

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5. How is limb reconstruction surgery performed?
In patients with cancer, the orthopedic surgeon will remove the tumor and a margin of normal tissue surrounding it, then reconstruct the bone and/or joint using the patient's own bone or bone from a donor.  If necessary, a specialized modular joint replacement may be used. The bone is stabilized using metal plates, rods and screws.

The specialized team performing surgery includes a vascular surgeon to help rebuild the circulatory system and a plastic surgeon who specializes in microvascular surgery and muscle transfer.

Your surgeon will discuss the reconstructive surgery you are having.

6. How long is limb reconstruction operation? I'm worried about anesthesia. What do I need to know?
The duration of limb reconstruction surgery depends on the type of operation being performed and the amount of reconstruction required. Surgery can last from two to eight hours. Virginia Mason has one of the best anesthesia programs in the country. You will be well cared for during your operation by your anesthesiologist.

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7. What are the risks of limb reconstruction surgery?
All precautions to ensure patient safety are taken prior to every operation at Virginia Mason. However, as with any surgery, some risks remain. For example, there is the possibility of infection, excessive blood loss and the development of blood clots. The incidence of these risks occurring in patients is very small.

Over time, some joint replacements, metal plates, screws or rods can loosen and require revision. This risk occurs infrequently because of better patient selection, surgical techniques and improved implanted materials.

8. What is the rehabilitation time after limb reconstruction surgery?
The length of rehabilitation will depend on the type of surgery performed and the patient's own functional status. Normally, rehabilitation after limb reconstructive surgery can take anywhere from six weeks to six months. Most patients will regain full function and a normal lifestyle.

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