Dr. Rodrigo Álvarez Cambra, director of the Frank País Orthopedic Complex and creator of the RALCA external fixator. Photo:

Progress in external fixation is one of the central issues to be discussed at the 27th International Congress of Orthopedics and Traumatology, taking place from September 26 through October 1, in the Plaza América Convention Center in the resort of Varadero.

Other key topics of the event include back operations, foot deformities, shoulder, hip and ankle arthroscopy, minimally invasive surgery, infections, complex hip conditions in older adults, injuries in high performance sports (Sports Traumatology) and other developments in the field of orthopedics.

The over 400 sector professionals from Europe, the U.S., Asia and Latin America, scheduled to attend the Congress, will also participate in the parallel 1st Cuban Congress of External Fixation, where Cuba will present the development of the RALCA external fixator, introduced in surgical procedures on the island from the 1970s.

This orthopedic apparatus, used to treat complex fractures and severe multiple injuries, is attached to the bone in order to lengthen it and correct both trauma wounds and congenital or acquired malformations, resulting in remarkable improvements in patient quality of life. It has multiple uses in vascular injuries and bone fragment displacement, and has proven to be very effective in natural disaster and armed conflict situations.

RALCA takes its name from Dr. Rodrigo Álvarez Cambra, director of the Frank País Orthopedic Complex and creator of the mechanical device, which is placed above the skin and attached to the bone using pins or wires for therapeutic purposes.

Although external fixation techniques were employed very successfully in the former Soviet Union, Cuban orthopedic surgeons continued to develop these techniques from the 1970s onwards, which were gradually expanded across the country’s orthopedic services. By 1982, a mini-fixator had been created by a group of engineers, technicians and graduates at the Orthopedic Products and Devices Center, part of the Frank País Complex.

Director Enrique Otero Enamorado told Granma International that this industry produces important surgical resources for different procedures. “We meet the specific requirements of the doctors and create parts such as wires, screws, pins, nuts, etc,” he explained.

To this end, the center has two production lines: one dedicated to producing essential orthopedic surgery devices, and another dedicated to technical aspects, where prostheses for amputations, girdles, special crutches, footwear and other goods are produced. Specific requests for children and older adults are also handled here.

Otero Enamorado added: “We also train the country’s orthopedic doctors for a period of time in regards to our products. Such training is offered to professionals from abroad so they can use these orthopedic devices in their medical treatments, and in so doing, share the benefits of a successful technique.”

This knowledge will be shared with delegates attending the upcoming Congress, which includes an exhibition and trade fair to showcase the latest advances in this medical specialty, with the participation of 24 Cuban and foreign entities, including the Ortop-RALCA industry, Labiofam, BioCubaFarma and the Cuban Medical Services enterprise.

The event will be attended by leading experts from the United States, previously limited from participating due to the laws of the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade endured by the Cuban people for over 50 years. This delegation will offer a symposium on the treatment of shoulder pathologies.

The event is sponsored by the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba, the Cuban Society of Orthopedics and Traumatology, the International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology and the National Council of Scientific Health Societies.