Santé Montréal


- Public, Children's Health, News, Professionnel, Réseau de la santé, CHU Sainte-Justine

New form of surgery on a young amputee affected by flesh-eating bacteria

Chirurgie de pointe sur un jeune amputé à cause de la bactérie mangeuse de chair

Restoring hope to a severely disabled child

The CHU Sainte-Justine (CHUSJ) is proud to announce that Dr. Panagiotis (Peter) Glavas and his team were able to restore full ambulatory capability to Charlie, a severely handicapped child.

Through a series of complex procedures unprecedented in pediatric orthopedic surgery in Quebec, and in collaboration with a company specializing in advanced orthopedic solutions, Dr. Glavas has made history. He designed and produced a cutting guide which resolved a serious problem with a malformation of the tibial bones that was preventing Charlie from being fitted with an appropriately adapted prosthesis.

A dramatic story

In January 2005, 18-month-old Charlie was attacked by flesh-eating bacteria. Despite the efforts of caregivers, he had to have both legs amputated at the middle of the tibia. Although his life was saved, the bacteria had time to infect other cells, in particular those involved in the growth of certain bones. The bones of Charlie's amputated legs grew at an abnormal angle that made attaching a prosthesis difficult and extremely painful.

Over the years that followed and during his adolescence, Charlie underwent multiple surgeries to correct the malformed tibia bones, with some success. However, as he grew, this deformity made it impossible to attach an effective prosthesis. The pain from wearing prostheses that were poorly adapted to his particular condition became so great that he gave up trying to walk and withdrew to his wheelchair.

When Charlie stopped growing, Dr. Glavas, in collaboration with the Quebec company Bodycad, looked for a way to straighten his left tibia in order to fit him with a comfortable prosthesis. The challenge with this correction was to find the  exact way to straighten the bone without weakening it with multiple saw strokes, which took some 200 hours of work. With the help of a three-dimensional cutting guide mounted on the tibia, Dr. Glavas was able to direct his saw cut with extreme precision. The operation (osteotomy) on the left tibia took place in May 2019. In addition, to stabilize the tibia after the osteotomy, a custom-made plate was produced to fit the specific anatomy of the bone. In August, results of the first test to assess the boy's gait were so encouraging that the team decided to perform the operation on the right tibia, which is scheduled for January 21. Congratulations to the whole team!

This story is the subject of a documentary report that will be broadcast on Sunday, January 19, on Radio-Canada's Découverte program.


Public, Children's Health, News, Professionnel, Réseau de la santé, CHU Sainte-Justine

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Last Update : 29 May 2020