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Children's Health Channel
Reported August 8, 2007

Braces for Bones

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- About one in 800 kids in the United States suffers from a deformity known as “sunken chest.” The condition can be devastating to a child’s self-esteem, but it can also cause physical problems like breathing difficulties. Now, for the first time, doctors hope to use magnetic force inside the human body to correct the problem.

Daniel Radovich was born with a sunken chest. The medical term for the condition is pectus excavatum. Radovich had to undergo two long surgeries when he was 9 and 14 years old.

“When I was younger, it was a struggle with my physical appearance,” he says. “It was hard sometimes to walk around without a shirt on at the pool because it would look weird.”

Until now, sunken chest has only been cured with lengthy, painful surgeries.

“What you really should be able to do is repair it the way our orthodontist repairs our teeth, our kids’ teeth. You move it just a little tiny bit frequently,” says Michael Harrison, M.D., director at the UCSF Fetal Treatment Center in San Francisco, Calif. “We started thinking, what if we could pull [the chest] with magnetic force?”

Surgeons begin by attaching the magnet to a child’s breastbone through a small incision. Another magnet is embedded in a plastic brace that kids wear under their clothing. The attraction between the two magnets holds the brace in place, pulls the bones together and fixes the problem. It takes about three months to a year, depending on the deformity.

“If we can make this work, it would be a quantum leap in this problem,” Dr. Harrison says. “You go from a big operation and a week in the hospital to a little operation as an outpatient.”

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, which offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, click on: /newsalert/.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Phyllis Brown
Public Relations
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA
phyllis.brown@ucsf.edu

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