Magic Magnets for Spinal Lengthening


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It happens more often than you think. One in every thousand children under the age of ten has early onset scoliosis. Their spinal curve can be so severe that they have a hard time breathing.  Until now, repeated surgeries were necessary until a child is fully grown. However, now there’s a new treatment that slashes both the time in hospitals and the number of surgeries and it all has to do with magnets.

Eight-year-old Kora Olivo is typical for other eight-year-olds, but she’s a miracle to her parents. When she was born, doctors weren’t sure Kora would ever leave the hospital.

Kora’s mom, Ali Oliv, told Ivanhoe, “She wasn’t quite breathing right and so they took her to the NICU. And that’s when they discovered her back the way it was. She has partially formed vertebrae.”

“I’m also missing one part of my lung and I’m missing some of my ribs,” said Kora.

Kora had early onset scoliosis so badly, her orthopedist ordered surgery when she was barely five.

“As the curve continued, it would constrict even more of her lung function,” detailed Ali.

Lawrence Rinsky, MD, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford explains, “The standard operation was an operation where you put rods in and then hook them to the spine. Then you would go in every six months, repeat an operation, and lengthen the rods.”

Until now, that meant a childhood filled with hospitals and healing from as many as 12 surgeries.  However, Kora’s fate improved dramatically with a new treatment.

“The newer technology is to put a rod in that just grows with an external magnet. Every two to three months, you can lengthen them,” said Dr. Rinsky.

Also forget about operating rooms.  The push of a remote control button lengthens the magnetic rods along her growing spine.  It’s over in a few minutes with almost no recovery time.

“I’m taller and more straight,” detailed Kora.

Ali said, “It really has made it so that she can have such a traditional life.”

“It basically magic!,” said Kora.

Magnetic rods won’t completely eliminate surgery for Kora and other early onset scoliosis patients. As they continue to grow, the rods will eventually expand as far as possible, requiring them to be replaced. But those operations typically are limited to around three versus 12 or more with the traditional procedure.

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.

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REPORT #2561

BACKGROUND: Scoliosis affects 2-3 percent of the population, or an estimated six to nine million people in the United States. It can develop in infancy or early childhood. However, the primary age of onset for scoliosis is 10-15 years old, occurring equally among both genders. Females are eight times more likely to progress to a curve magnitude that requires treatment. Every year, approximately 30,000 children are fitted with a brace and 38,000 patients undergo spinal fusion surgery. Idiopathic scoliosis is the diagnosis when all other causes are excluded and comprises about 80 percent of all cases. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis and is usually diagnosed during puberty. Congenital scoliosis results from embryological malformation of one or more vertebrae and may occur in any location of the spine. Neuromuscular scoliosis encompasses scoliosis that is secondary to neurological or muscular diseases. This includes scoliosis associated with cerebral palsy, spinal cord trauma, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy and spina bifida.


SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT: Signs that may indicate the possibility of scoliosis may be uneven shoulders, head is not centered directly above the pelvis, one or both hips are raised or unusually high, rib cages are at different heights, the appearance or texture of the skin overlying the spine changes (dimples, hairy patches, color abnormalities), or the entire body leans to one side. Scoliosis is usually confirmed through a physical examination, an x-ray, spinal radiograph, CT scan or MRI. The curve is measured by the Cobb Method and is diagnosed in terms of severity by the number of degrees. In many children with scoliosis, the spinal curve is mild enough to not require treatment, therefore just observation over time. Braces are only effective in patients who have not reached skeletal maturity. If the child is still growing and his or her curve is between 25 degrees and 40 degrees, a brace may be recommended to prevent the curve from progressing. The two primary goals of surgery are to stop the curve from progressing during adulthood and to diminish spinal deformity. Most experts would recommend surgery only when the spinal curve is greater than 40 degrees and there are signs of progression.


NEW TREATMENT FOR SCOLIOSIS: As an alternative to bracing or spinal fusion for treatment of progressive scoliosis, surgeons at the Philadelphia Hospital are investigating several methods for fusionless stabilization or correction of spine deformity. By not having to fuse the spine to correct the curvature, movement and flexibility can be maintained, allowing for preserved motion and less chance for back pain in adulthood. For patients with progressive moderate scoliosis (less than 45°) who are still growing (girls up to age 14 and boys up to age 16), intervertebral body stapling of the convex (outer) side of the anterior spine may keep the curve from progressing. Using staples in the spine for stabilization of scoliosis was actually conceived 20 years ago but failed because the staples would dislodge and fall into the chest. Improvements in technology have led to development of a staple made of a memory-shaped alloy (nickel and titanium). The staple is shaped like a clamp at room temperature. When placed in an ice bath, the staple can be bent straight for insertion. After inserting the staple into the spine, upon heating to body temperature the staple returns to its original clamp shape, which prevents it from dislodging. This technologic advancement has allowed physicians to reconsider its use for correction of spine deformity.


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