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A Magec touch: A new way forward for spinal growing

December 04, 2016
Children's pediatric surgeons prepare to implant a MAGnetic Expansion Control Spinal Growing Rod for children with scoliosis.

Growing rods help manage early onset scoliosis in children with spinal curvature that is too significant to control with bracing or casting. Surgeons attach rods to the spine above and below the curve and lengthen the rods in follow-up surgical procedures every six to 12 months. The rods manage the curve as the spine grows until the child is old enough for spinal fusion—typically age 10 for girls and age 12 to 13 for boys.

However, children undergo physical and psychological pain from these procedures. After six or seven of them, the spine becomes stiffer and sometimes cannot be lengthened further.

“Traditional growth rods work, but the multiple surgeries increase complication rates and time spent in the hospital,” says Matthew Oetgen, MD, Interim Division Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine and Director, Orthopaedic Research, at Children’s National.

Dr. Oetgen and his colleagues are trying a new technology that may make this process easier and less painful while decreasing morbidity. After implantation, the MAGEC (MAGnetic Expansion Control) Spinal Bracing and Distraction System by Ellipse Technologies, Inc., lets a surgeon lengthen the MAGEC rods in minutes using an external remote controller at an outpatient visit every three to four months.

After the FDA approved the system in February 2014, Children’s National surgeons were among the first in the country to use it. Children younger than age 10 with severe progressive scoliosis are candidates for this system. It is too soon to know whether the spine will stay pliable longer using the MAGEC rods, but physicians are hopeful.