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Visiting the Stanmore Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

Adam PGibson1 March 2017

by Madeline Lok, Emma Ponting and Sarita Meekul

On Friday 27th of January, our 2nd year Biomedical Engineering class got the opportunity to visit the Stanmore Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. The purpose of the trip was for us to gain an understanding of how the clinical environment works and how devices we may help to create in the future fit into real people’s lives.

rhoh3The day began early with a long journey on the tube to Stanmore, on the outskirts of London where the class met. After a short taxi ride to the hospital, we were met by Professor Hart at the London Implant Retrieval Centre (LIRC). Prof Hart is the director of research and development at LIRC and a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital. He gave us a warm welcome and introduced us to some of the PhD students working there. At LIRC they recover and study knee and hip replacement implants that have been removed from patients to better understand why they failed. We were shown the processes these implants go through once they arrive, from cleaning to being scanned for wear and deformation and got to hold some actual implants. It was very interesting to see how something that we learn about in lectures actually looks and feels in real life.

rnoh1Then the lovely people of LIRC kindly provided us with lunch with their team. This was a good chance to chat to the people who work in the hospital and get a better insight into the kind of jobs available that we might be interested in once we graduate.

After lunch, we were split into smaller groups; some went to watch the surgeries while other went to sit-in with the doctors and their patients for real consultations. We swapped after 1.5 hours.rnoh4

We were brought to the surgery area to be able to see a real operation taking place. Before entering the operation theatres, we changed into scrubs. We were then separated into pairs and entered different theatres. Among all of us, we saw a range of operations including hip replacements, knee replacements and one ankle-foot correction surgery. We were told that the ankle-foot surgery is one of the most complicated and delicate procedures. The doctor that took us in even made a joke about how he avoided it. They used x-rays during that operation so we had to wear a lead apron to protect ourselves from the radiation. Some others of us saw the removal of implants, which was completely opposite of what the others saw. It was interesting to be able to discuss our different experiences at the end of the day when everyone was together.

Within the operating theatre, the surgeons explained to us what and how they were performing this surgery. Most of us were surprised by the atmosphere in the operating room. It was very relaxed with music playing in the background. The anaesthetist was reading his Kindle; the surgeons were even able to have a conversation and joke about their family while operating on the patient. It was surprising to see how calm and confident they were. Due to the time constraints, none of us were in there for the whole process which was a pity because we all really enjoyed it.

rnoh2The consultation sessions were an eye-opening experience too. We had the opportunity to sit through a few consultations with an orthopaedic specialist doctor, and see how they interact with their patients. All patients had very different reasons to be there, so we got to see various cases, the medical images used, and procedure followed. After sitting through the consultations, we now have a better understanding of what doctors go through when seeing patients and it definitely is a very difficult job. It’s not all smiles, hellos, reassurance and prescribing treatments as some people would think. In reality, they are potentially the ones who would be telling you how you would live out the next 10-20 years of your life (in our case, with hip/knee replacements, constant rehab, medication and so on). They have to always maintain professionalism and courtesy no matter how their patients react to whatever they tell them; even answer questions about their other concerns whether or not it is related to the real reason they came in for the consultation in the first place. The most important take-away I had from the session was that the doctors should let the patients leave with the best reassurance they can provide.

We all had a great day and learnt a lot about working in a clinical setting and working with patients. We would like to say a massive thank you to a ll of the people at Stanmore hospital who helped in making this day happen! What a day and what an experience!

Clinical engineering visit to Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

Adam PGibson13 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!