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Groundbreaking surgery saves boy's leg

By: Stacey Welsh
EL PASO, Texas -- Doctors at El Paso Children's Hospital recently performed a type of leg implant on a boy with bone cancer that can actually grow with the boy. It is a groundbreaking procedure called Repiphysis, where doctors can use magnets to stretch the implant to as needed.

It all started when 7-year-old Enrique Gonzalez's family thought he was suffering from a soccer injury, but then doctors diagnosed him with bone cancer. Doctors said Enrique's cancer, called osteosarcoma, is common in children and adolescents.

"Because the size of the tumor was so large, amputation was certainly a consideration," Dr. Mary Lacaze said. Lacaze is co-director of oncology at the Children's Hospital.

To save Enrique's right leg, doctors removed all the bone from his ankle to his knee and put in the implant.

"There are no words. It's a pain that seems like it won't go away, but I didn't lose faith. I can't lose it," Enrique's mother, Brenda Munoz, said.

The growing implant means Enrique could lead a normal life into adulthood, and avoid having several surgeries to replace the implant with larger ones as he grows.

This is the first Repiphysis procedure performed at El Paso Children's Hospital.

"It is very important because it shows the magnitude of procedures that we are able to achieve here. It shows the infrastructure that the Children's Hospital provides," Dr. Humberto Palladino said. Palladino is a plastic surgeon who assisted in Enrique's surgery.

Enrique had the surgery in early November, and doctors said he is already putting weight on his leg. However, he will have to go through chemotherapy treatments to make sure the cancer does not spread.