In the past, patients suffering from various orthopedic diseases, such as congenital abnormalities of limb development, limb deformities, bone infections, limb length discrepancies and fractures, had little treatment available to them, and were often considered incurable before the Ilizarov era. Patients who required surgical removal of infected or cancerous bone often had no choice but to have an amputation of the affected limb.
Dr. Gavril Ilizarov, an orthopedic surgeon from Russia who is credited with inventing the external fixator ring with cross wires designed for lengthening or straightening bones and soft tissues, revolutionized the treatment of orthopedic disorders. His method provides a diversified fixation system for the treatment of bone deformities and fractures. The multi-purposes of the unique parts of the Ilizarov frame allow its application in trauma and various orthopedic cases.
Although some form of fixation has been used in orthopedic medicine for hundreds of years, Ilizarov is considered to be the grandfather of external fixators. According to many experts, the Ilizarov frame, that takes its name from Dr. Gavril Ilizarov (patented in 1951), is one of the most important discoveries in the history of orthopedics, allowing in many cases the preservation and healing of limbs that might otherwise be amputated. Ilizarov made it possible to lengthen legs and arms and treat severely disabled patients with bone trauma or deformities.
He discovered that bones and soft tissues have the capacity to grow under mechanical influences, and developed his "Tension stress effect" which proved that under gradual distraction, bone and soft tissue would grow and regenerate.
Ilizarov first became interested in orthopedics and bone reconstruction because many of his patients were soldiers returning from front line battles during World War II. Ilizarov believed there must be other ways of treating fractures, and devoted his career to orthopedics.
Ilizarov's methods started to become more widely accepted after he successfully treated Soviet high jumper Valery Brumel in 1968. Brumel had suffered an open fracture of his tibia, which several other surgeons had attempted to treat without success. Three years after his fracture, Brumel saw Ilizarov, but by this time he had developed osteomyelitis and had a significant limb length discrepancy. Ilizarov treated both of these, and Brumel was able to continue his athletic career.
The Ilizarov method spread to Italy after he successfully treated Italian journalist Carlo Mauri in 1980 for an infected tibial non-union. Mauri was so impressed that he wrote an article in an Italian newspaper naming Ilizarov the Michelangelo of Orthopedics. This was a key factor that made Ilizarov famous throughout the world.
This method still has wide influence on modern trauma and orthopedic fields of medicine, and is widely practiced worldwide.
The Ilizarov method requires relatively long-lasting treatment, during which the patient is constantly monitored by medical personnel. The surgery and the postoperative care are followed by long-term outpatient treatment to ensure a successful recovery. These factors make the whole treatment process relatively expensive, and unaffordable for many of the patients in Armenia.
The most common examples of orthopedic diseases that Armaveni treats