First-in-man study shows that new magnetically controlled growing rods can treat scoliosis in children

April 18, 2012

A first-in-man study published Online First by The Lancet shows that new magnetically-controlled growing rods can treat scoliosis in children by being extended using a non-invasive technique as their spine grows, without the repeated invasive surgery used with existing rod technology. The study is by Professor Kenneth Cheung and Dr Dino Samartzis, from the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, and colleagues.

Scoliosis is a characterized as lateral deviation of the spine, which occurs mainly in adolescents and young children. If left untreated, it can rapidly progress, causing cosmetic disfigurement and . For children with severe scoliosis who are still growing, traditional practice has been to surgically insert growing rods under general anaesthesia across the segment of the spinal deformity's curve. These rods need to be lengthened (a procedure called "distraction") every 6 months, again under general anaesthesia using and requiring hospitalization. This "traditional" growing rod surgery is associated with various socioeconomic drawbacks. For instance, children miss school time, and parents might have to take time off work to support their child. Also, the heath-care costs associated with each surgery and hospital stay are substantial. Thus, in this new study, the authors assessed a new remotely distractible, magnetically-controlled growing rod (MCGR) system that allows frequent non-invasive outpatient distractions.

The authors implanted the MCGR in five patients, two of whom have now reached 24 months' follow-up. Each patient underwent monthly outpatient distractions. was used to measure the magnitude of the , rod distraction length, and spinal length. Clinical outcome was assessed by measuring the degree of pain, function, mental health, satisfaction with treatment, and procedure-related complications.

In the two patients with 24 months' follow-up, the mean degree of was 67° before implantation and 29° at 24 months. Length of the instrumented segment of the spine increased by a mean of 1•9 mm with each outpatient distraction and in congruence with their normal growth. Throughout follow-up, both patients had no pain, had good functional outcome, and were satisfied with the procedure. No MCGR-related complications were noted.

The authors say: "MCGR will eliminate the need for repeated operations under , wound complications, and socioeconomic and health-care costs associated with the procedure. The preliminary results from the first two patients to undergo the treatment for a minimum of 24 months suggest that this non-invasive outpatient procedure is effective and safe. Whether MCGR leads to significantly better outcomes than traditional growing rods is not yet known, but early results are positive and the avoidance of open distractions is a great improvement. Additionally, this new growing rod system has potentially widespread applications in other disorders that could benefit from a non-invasive procedure to correct abnormalities. MCGR could assist with correction of limb abnormalities, thoracic insufficiency syndrome, limb lengthening, limb salvage procedures, or any disorders or injuries in which slow, progressive change to bone structures is needed."

In a linked Comment, Dr John T Smith, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, and Dr Robert M Campbell Junior, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA, say that more patients need to be followed up for longer to substantiate the results in this study, and long-term functionality of magnetic rods must be proven.

They add: "Magnetically controlled growing-rod technology is being developed outside the USA, where, in our view, the pathway to develop and test new technology faces excessive barriers (growing rods remain unapproved by the US Food and Drug Administration). If this technology was available in the USA, we believe that it would be rapidly used to avoid repetitive surgeries and improve quality of life for children with spinal deformity. We strongly encourage Cheung and colleagues to continue to report their results—both positive outcomes and adverse events. We are hopeful that further development of the technology will make this treatment increasingly available to children worldwide."

Explore further: Risk of blood loss in childhood back surgery varies with cause of spine deformity

More information: www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)60112-3/abstract

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The 'love hormone' may quiet tinnitus

September 23, 2016

(HealthDay)—People suffering from chronic ringing in the ears—called tinnitus—may find some relief by spraying the hormone oxytocin in their nose, a small initial study by Brazilian researchers suggests.

Bile acid uptake inhibitor prevents NASH / fatty liver in mice

September 21, 2016

Drugs that interfere with bile acid recycling can prevent several aspects of NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) in mice fed a high-fat diet, scientists from Emory University School of Medicine and Children's Healthcare of ...

New therapeutic target for Crohn's disease

September 20, 2016

Research from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a promising new target for future drugs to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The study, published today in Cell Reports, also indicates ...

Mosquitoes, Zika and biotech regulation

September 19, 2016

In a new Policy Forum article in Science, NC State professor Jennifer Kuzma argues that federal authorities are missing an opportunity to revise outdated regulatory processes not fit for modern innovations in biotechnology, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.