When Dr. Martin Malawer started practicing in the 1970s, amputation was the standard treatment for young children and adolescents with bone and tissue cancer. Working with pioneers in the field of orthopedic oncology, Dr. Malawer helped to develop the first set of orthopedic endoprostheses, which included artificial bone and joint replacements.
These early models were less than ideal – heavy pieces of metal that had to be custom-ordered based on physician specifications derived from x-rays. They took months to create and often didn’t fit due to the inexact measuring method. Dr. Malawer ultimately came up with the idea of a better solution for patients and physicians. He envisioned a bone replacement system that could be customized during surgery in order to fit almost any patient. He collaborated with the same medical technology company that produced the original prostheses to make this system a reality. After several years of development and testing, Dr. Malawer performed the first successful human implantation in 1988 with surgeons from the National Cancer Institute.
Over the years, Dr. Malawer and the manufacturer perfected the technology to customize prosthetic bones and joints to each person—even creating ones that grow with children to eliminate the risk and cost of future surgery. Today, only 6 percent of Americans with bone and tissue cancer undergo an amputation, saving five times the cost of an implant over the patient’s lifetime. Dr. Malawer’s work on prostheses exemplifies the medical technology innovation process: initial development followed by ongoing improvements to better meet the needs of patients. Countless patients have had their lives changed by Dr. Malawer’s vision and dedication to saving lives and limbs.
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