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MedStar Union Memorial does first-of-its-kind surgery to fix boy's club hand

Doctors at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital have performed an innovative surgery where they used bones, a joint and a growth plates from a child's foot to fix deformities in his hand and arm.

Dr. Ryan Katz and James Higgins from the Curtis National Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital said the surgery is the first of its kind performed in the United States.


The patient, Lal Ding, suffered from a condition called radial club hand that caused him to have a significantly shortened forearm, a hand that bent toward his wrist and without a thumb.

The doctors believe the three-stage procedure will give Ding better function and is less likely than more traditional treatments of the disorder to prevent his forearm from growing or result in recurrence of the deformity.


Traditional treatments involve surgically putting the hand and arm in a straighter position.

Ding's arm has grown nearly two inches in length and is straighter since the surgery was completed in September.

Dr. Simo Vilkke, a Finnish microsurgeon and architect of the new technique, helped on key parts of the surgery. The classic Vilkki procedure has previously been done in the United States. The MedStar case was a unique modification of the procedure and involved placing the toe on the hypoplastic radius rather than the ulna, enabling doctors to give the child a two-bone forearm. The ulna is one of two bones that give structure to the forearm. The hypoplastic radius is the other bone that makes up the forearm.