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Clinical engineering visit to Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

By Adam P Gibson, on 13 November 2015

By Nishat Ahmed and Bindia Venugopal

On Wednesday the 11th of November, we were up at the crack of dawn, pumped and ready to go to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. After missing trains due to tube closures and our taxi rides arriving a half hour late, we finally managed to reach the hospital in time to attend the Multi-Disciplinary Team meeting.

We found the meeting very interesting, watching the consultant surgeons and nurses discuss real case studies of patients. They collaborated well to work out the best way to rehabilitate patients, whether this was through further surgery or simply giving them advice and support.

Later on we headed to the operation theatres, adhering to hospital dress code we threw on our scrubs, hair nets and masks beforehand! Since we were only allowed three students at a time in the theatres, we split into groups and then went off to watch various operations taking place. The first surgery we watched involved attaching a metal plate to a fractured tibia bone to aid its healing process in a way that was ingenious! It was fascinating watching the surgeon screw the bone together and then brace the join with a metal plate. The screws held the fracture under compression, this meant it was forced to combine together rather than slide apart, and the metal plate stopped it from twisting.

The second surgery we went to was an extremely rare case where the surgeons ended up dislocating the hip bone in order to remove a benign tumour from inside the bone. They sawed the hip bone in half as bone-to-bone healing worked best compared to tendon-to-bone healing. The challenge was in trying to avoid damaging the femoral head to get to the tumour.

After this we had a little tea break and then made way to our next surgery! This was a spinal surgery where the patient had a twisted spine due to being paralysed for 10 years. They operated with a diathermy machine which uses electricity to cut through the skin and muscles as this reduces blood loss. Although we only saw the surgery for 10 minutes we learnt how vital it was to keep the fluids in the patient regulated. This job was monitored by the anaesthetist, who informed us about the patient and the precautions which needed to be taken. Two neurophysiologists were monitoring electrical activity in the spinal cord to ensure that it wasn’t damaged by the surgery.

Scrubbed up

After an insane experience watching all the surgeries, we went to have lunch which was provided by the lovely team at Stanmore. In the afternoon we got a tour around the BME department at the hospital and learnt about all the weird and wonderful things they collect and experiments they run! In fact, we found out that they have over 6000 failed hip replacements from 25 different countries in their labs to study and analyse. They conduct experiments to research why implant failure happens in some patients the way it does, especially those with metal on metal implants. They use tools for metrology which measures the exact size of the ball and socket implants with crazy precision! This information is then used to work out the amount of corrosion that happened in the body when the implants were inserted.

Overall, we had an amazing and truly valuable experience. The entire team were extremely friendly and helpful! We loved that we could ask questions and interact with the staff so well. It was remarkable to see the transition from a real-life patient problem to actually seeing the solution executed in the surgeries. It was also encouraging to see how the hospital carries out their own research which can then be implemented to the surgery procedures in only a few years’ time.

On behalf of our whole BME department, we thank you for this experience Professor Hart and RNOH!

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