When I was invited to attend and lecture at the International meeting in Kurgan, the very birthplace of the Ilizarov method, I knew this was an opportunity and an experience not to be missed. The conference was arranged to celebrate the 95th birthday of Professor G. Ilizarov, the Siberian genius orthopedic surgeon and pioneer in limb lengthening and complex deformity correction surgery. While I never met Ilizarov, my professional work has been entirely inspired by his ground breaking work in the mid to late 20th century.
Dr. Fragomen and I decided to embark on this adventure together and we were flattered that the conference organizers asked us to deliver four lectures that illustrated our American advances on the classic Ilizarov methods. This was the first time HSS had lectured at this conference! For background, the Ilizarov method is the process of bone lengthening and deformity correction using osteotomy and a circulator fixator.
I had never been to Russia, so my wife and I embarked a few days early to experience St. Petersburg and Moscow before making the journey to Siberia. Dr. Fragomen met us in Moscow and we enjoyed a couple of days of Russian culture including the Kremlin, the Red Square, and the Bolshoi Ballet. Learning about the rich history of Russia including the Tsars, the revolution and the Soviet era, and then the fall of the Iron Curtain was fascinating to experience up close.
We took a midnight flight to from Moscow to Kurgan, Siberia and arrived at 5:30 am. This remote area is famous for the Ilizarov center, which is a large orthopedic hospital that treats patients from all over Russia. The conference was attended by 200+ surgeons from all around the globe interested in limb lengthening and deformity correction. Lectures were delivered in both Russian and English and translators were busy throughout the conference.
Dr. Fragomen and I were welcomed and treated with great hospitality by the staff and especially the current director of the Institute, Alexander Gubin, MD, PhD. Our activities included delivering 4 lectures:
1. Enhancement of Bone Healing During Limb Lengthening Surgery
2. Integrated Fixation for Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction surgery
3. Ankle Distraction Surgery Outcomes
4. Complex Foot and Ankle Deformity Correction.
We were also given private tours of the facility including Ilizarov’s private study, a museum dedicated to Ilizarov’s advances, and the operating rooms. We had the opportunity to participate in 3 surgical procedures including a complex ankle fusion and a tibial nonunion repair.
The experience was epic and one that will not be forgotten. The pressing act of trying to get the perfect photo with Ilizarov’s statue illustrated the awe that we felt being in the place where it all began.
Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch is the Chief of the Limb Lengthening and Complex Reconstruction Service. He is a Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. He is a member of several national medical societies including fellowship in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Orthopaedic Trauma Association, and ASAMI – The Limb Lengthening & Reconstruction Society. He has presented his clinical and research works at national medical meetings and has authored numerous articles in medical journals and chapters in Orthopaedic textbooks. He edited “Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Surgery,” a comprehensive textbook on the subject.