Pediatric orthopedic surgeons at Columbia are using a new device with magnetic technology that avoids the need for multiple spine-lengthening surgeries to correct early-onset scoliosis, a severe curvature of the spine in young children.
In April 2014, Michael Vitale, MD, the Ana Lucia Professor of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery at CUMC and 1995 graduate of P&S, performed the first procedure in the New York area, using the device to treat a 5-year-old boy.
When braces and casts cannot control scoliosis in young children, surgeons turn to growing rods, which help correct the curve while allowing the spine to grow. When spinal maturity is near, the rods are removed and a spinal fusion can be performed.
But during years of treatment with growing rods, patients must undergo surgery every six months to lengthen the rods to keep up with the patients’ growth. A patient may undergo eight to 10 procedures, which are costly and result in lost time for parents at work and children at school.
The new device—MAGEC (MAGnetic Expansion Control) rods—contains a mechanism inside the growing rods that allows surgeons to lengthen the rods with a handheld external magnet, without surgery.