Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Using Magnets To Set Broken Bones

A group of students at Rice University are developing a mechanism, using magnets, that can help doctors set broken long bones in the arm or leg. Normally, to set broken long bones, titanium rods with pre-drilled holes are placed inside the broken bones. Once inserted, the rods are then drilled into place, but this requires a large amount of x-rays as well as some trial and error to properly secure them. The team's mechanism would use magnets to secure the rod and properly align the pre-drilled holes. This new process will eliminate the need for multiple x-rays as well as significantly cut down on the time the patient is in surgery. 



“We want to reduce the amount of X-rays, the surgeon’s time, the operating room time, the setup time, everything,” says Will Yarinsky, engineering major at Rice University. 

From the Rice University article: "The Rice team would make the wire adjacent to the holes magnetic, because neither skin nor bone hinder a magnetic field.

'That way, the magnets hold their position and we can do the location process,' Frankel said. 'Once we’ve found them and secured the rod, we remove the wire and the magnets with it.'

The exterior mechanism is a brace that can be securely attached to the arm or leg with Velcro. A mounted sensor can then be moved along the stiff, 3D-printed carbon-fiber rods or around the limb until it locates the magnet. Then, the angle of the sensor can be adjusted. As each of the three degrees of freedom come into alignment with the target, a 'virtual LED' lights up on a graphic display wired to the sensor. Then, the sensor is removed and a drill keyed to the mechanism inserted."


Read more about using magnets to set broken bones at Rice University