In 2003 and 2004, two people contacted us with horrific stories about their stay at the Ladisten Clinic in Ukraine. This page was written in 2004. Since then the evnvironment at the clinic may have changed. Dr.Torry from Ladisten replied to these alegations in 2008.
In both cases, Dr. Veklich performed simultaneous lengthening of the tibia (lower leg) and femur (upper leg). This is a highly questionable practice. When one section of the leg is lengthened, the other section can take on some of the support during physical therapy. However, when both sections are done at the same time, neither is able to support the other. This makes adequate physical therapy difficult or impossible. It is interesting to note that Dr. Veklich's Web site says that additional lengthening should be done after a six month rest following the first lengthening operation. That would be the better approach but would not be feasible for most patients visiting from another country. His decision to do both leg segments at the same time, because patients could not stay for a year and a half, is reckless.
Both patients elaborated on problems they experienced with the external fixator device. Dr. Veklich claims to have invented a better version of the Ilizarov fixator device which he calls the Ilizarov-Veklich device. The fixator device must be strong enough to hold both ends of each bone steady through the entire lengthening and strengthening phases. They are custom built for each patient and at other hospitals, the cost of building the Ilizarov device is a significant portion of the total cost. However, his devices were too weak to hold the legs together and caused the bones to become misaligned.
As noted elsewhere, physical therapy is one of the most important requirements for a speedy recovery following leg lengthening surgery. While the pain is intense, it must be done. In email we saw, Dr. Veklich promised two hours of physical therapy, mechanotherapy and massage therapy each day. This promise was not kept. Instead, a 22-year old staff member performed daily massages which did little for the recovery process. This employee was not certified in physical therapy or mechanotherapy and did not know the proper tissue work needed for successful recovery. There were no parallel bars for patients to use to practice walking. There was also no a pool for resistance walking and no stationary bike for additional exercise.
Both patients were still bed ridden a year after their surgeries. They had been told that the whole procedure, including lengthening and strengthening, would require only six months. Following a typical leg lengthening operation, patients should be able to begin walking on their own in six months and be fully recovered in a year, depending on the patient's age. This assumes that only one leg segment is done at a time and that there are no major complications.
Unfortunately, these patients suffered very significant complications and their recoveries extended well beyond one year. Both patients were afflicted with Knee Arthrofibrosis, which is an extreme stiffness in the knee joint. A year and eight months later, one patient could bend his left knee by only 50 degrees and his right knee by only 90 degrees. This patient also suffered permanent misalignment of bones, bone non-union, leg length difference, nerve damage, infections, swelling and refractures. At this time he was still in terrible pain and could not walk on his own.
The other patient required many operations following the first one. He said that Dr. Veklich would correct one problem but cause another. At other times he would only partially correct the problem. After one operation, one femur had been rotated and his foot was turned inward. The doctor said that this was normal. By now the patient knew this was not right and demanded that the leg be corrected. He argued with the doctor for three weeks before being returned to the operating table. By that time the bone had consolidated and had to be cut to be turned back.
When asked if bone growth stimulators (BGS) were used to speed up bone formation during lengthening, Dr. Veklich responded that they used a "homeopathic remedy for bones" and that they did not have certificates to use BGS in Ukraine. Homeopathic remedies have gained wide appeal but most practitioners believe they hold no value except as a placebo. Starting with a small amount of minerals or plant extract, homeopathic remedies are produced by continually diluting the substance. One part substance is combined with 99 parts diluted water or alcohol and shaken vigorously. Then one part of this solution is extracted and again combined with 99 parts liquid. These steps are repeated between six and 30 times. Eventually, no molecules of the original substance are left but the remaining liquid is supposed to hold a "memory" of the original substance. It is inconceivable that the "memory" of any substance could be used to grow new bone!
Pain medication was not sufficient. The pain was described as barbaric and tortuous. For an operation as severe as this, morphine is often delivered using a machine that the patient can administer themselves. The machine is programmed to prevent the patient from delivering too much pain medicine (to avoid addiction), but to allow the patient to let more time go by between applications as the pain subsides. Morphine was not available in Ladisten Clinic, nor was the technology available for self administration. Instead, the patients received a shot every four hours. One patient had 800 pain injections in 7 months. In one email, the doctor did explain that there would be more pain when both legs segments were done at the same time but did not adequately explain how much worse the pain would be.
Medical care was not the only complaint that these patients had. The food was very bad. There was no meat and no attempt to provide a balanced diet. Meals consisted of a cup of noodles, eggs and vegetables. The vegetables were often rotting, some staff members having taken the best ones. One of the patients reported that the food was good in the beginning while he was being prepared for surgery. After surgery, the food became drastically worse. He suffered constipation and bleeding until a family member mailed him a laxative and fiber for his diet.
A running theme from both patients is that the doctor and his daughter lied consistently. Dr. Veklich does not speak English so his daughter interprets. Whether they were providing information about recovery times, physical therapy, pain management or food, they did not just mislead their patients but repeatedly told outright lies.
After leaving Ladisten, both patients needed additional surgeries in other countries to correct problems that Dr. Veklich allowed to manifest. One patient said that upon seeing his X-Rays, his doctors were appalled at the incompetence that had allowed all these complications to occur. In a follow up surgery, a rod had to be inserted into his femur to correct the non-union problem. The surgery was also needed to correct the leg length difference, realign his knee, and cut out scar tissue from the knee.
So did the patients have anything good to say about their experiences? Only that the nursing staff was good and tried to do the best they could with what little they had.
The Ladisten Web site lists a recommendation from one patient from Texas, USA. We tried contacting that patient to confirm his positive experience but the email address was no good and the email bounced back. We think it would be foolhardy for anyone to consider visiting the Ladisten Clinic for a leg lengthening operation.
Patients should be very cautious of considering this operation anywhere at all, especially in developing countries. Many doctors have not been properly trained on this complicated procedure. They try to duplicate for themselves what has taken others years of research to perfect.