THURSDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Magnetically controlled
growing rods can treat the spinal disorder scoliosis in children
without the need for repeat invasive surgeries, a small new study
Scoliosis is an abnormal curving of the spine that occurs mainly
in young children and adolescents. Traditional treatment for
children who are still growing is surgical insertion of growing
rods. Every six months, however, a new surgery is required to
lengthen the rods.
These repeated surgeries are costly and force children to miss
school and parents to miss work.
In the study, researchers assessed the use of magnetically
controlled growing rods that were implanted in two patients. The
key advantage: Surgery is not required to lengthen these rods.
After 24 months of follow up, the rods were effective and there
were no complications, the researchers reported online April 17 in
The Lancet. Furthermore, the patients had no pain and typically were satisfied with the procedure.
The new rods "will eliminate the need for repeated operations
under general anesthesia, wound complications, and socioeconomic
and health-care costs associated with the procedure," a team led by
Kenneth Cheung and Dr. Dino Samartzis, from the department of
orthopedics and traumatology at the University of Hong Kong, said
in a news release. "The preliminary results from the first two
patients to undergo the treatment for a minimum of 24 months
suggest that this noninvasive outpatient procedure is effective and
Still, the long-term effectiveness remains unclear, the
researchers added. "Whether [the new technology] 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," they said.
One expert is optimistic about the new rods, but said more study
"This is exciting new technology, which has the potential of eliminating additional surgical procedures in children with scoliosis," said Dr. Victor Khabie, co-director of the Orthopedic and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
He added, however, that "the downside is that with every new
technology potential complications can occur. The sample size is
very small with just two patients being followed two years after
"Many more patients will need to be enrolled in the trial and followed for many years before we can say this new technology is safe and effective," Khabie said. "However, the very early findings are encouraging."
And in a journal editorial, two experts noted that magnetically
controlled rods are not yet approved for use in the United
"If this technology was available in the U.S., we believe that it would be rapidly used to avoid repetitive surgeries and improve quality of life for children with spinal deformity," wrote Dr. John Smith, of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and Dr. Robert Campbell Jr., of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The two experts said they, "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."
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about