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Inventions help with serious injuries

Legacy Emanuel Medical Center | Intensive Care (ICU), Trauma

When Leland Tash left for work that day in September 2011 on his motorcycle, he had no idea how quickly things were about to change.

A blind curve, a large truck and 124 feet of skidding before a crash into a guard rail left Leland with 12 broken ribs –– all of the ribs on both sides, many of them broken in multiple places. The injuries resulted in a life-threatening condition called “flail chest,” where the rib cage detaches from the chest and interferes with breathing.

“It was one of the worst cases of flail chest I’ve seen in 15 years of practice,” says Steve Madey, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon on the trauma team at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

If anything was fortunate that day for Leland, it was that he was taken to Legacy Emanuel and in the care of Dr. Madey. Dr. Madey happens to be one of the inventors of a medical innovation known as a “rib plating system” that is improving the lives of those who have flail chest.

The new rib-plating device is far ahead of other surgical solutions. It involves surgically inserting a metal plate on each end of the fractured rib. The plate holds the rib in place to assist with healing and reduce pain during breathing. 

One of its main benefits is that it is built to conform to the shape of the human rib; with other solutions, the doctor has to shape the plate during surgery. Surgeons from all over the United States, as well as Canada and Europe, have come to Legacy Research Institute to learn how to use the device.

Dr. Madey developed the system along with William Long, M.D., thoracic and trauma surgeon at Legacy Emanuel and Michael Bottlang, Ph.D., Legacy Research. The device, which is manufactured by Synthes, is called the Synthes MatrixRIB Fixation System.

The rib plating system is one of several innovations developed in recent years by doctors at Legacy Emanuel, site of one of the state’s two highest-level trauma centers, and researchers and engineers at Legacy Research, one of the country’s largest non-academic medical research centers.