Spinal surgeons at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough have used remote control technology and a magnetic special rod to lengthen a young patient’s spine.
Mr Raman Kalyan and Mr Waleed Hekal, who specialise in paediatric and adult spine disorders, performed the innovative procedure on 11-year-old Sarah Wascoe, who suffers from scoliosis – a severe curvature of the spine – for the first time on 5 September 2013.
Previously, young children with severe early onset scoliosis had limited treatment options. As they continue to grow in height, their spinal curve can worsen significantly, leading to major long term consequences.
If the curvature of the spine cannot be controlled by casting or bracing, a growth preserving operation with traditional growing rods is performed, instead of fusion surgery.
Growth preserving surgery involves an initial open surgery for rod insertion, followed by repeated operations to distract, or lengthen, the rods as often as every six months – until the child stops growing. The risk of complications and psychological trauma to the patient is significant.
For Sarah, Mr Kalyan used MAGEC – magnetic expansion control rods – to correct her spine. The rare earth magnets inside the rods communicate with an external remote controller which allows surgeons to adjust the rods easily, quickly and more comfortably in the outpatient department avoiding repeated hospital admissions and surgeries.
Mr Kalyan explained: “This new technique is suitable for a specific type of spinal curvature in younger children from the ages of two to 11 years. ”After the insertion of the magnetic growth rod, the patient needs to come to the outpatient department every three months for lengthening of their growth rod, which will allow gradual growth of the spine and trunk; and slowly correct the curve and prevent further progression of the curve.
“This technology is evolving, and we need to compare its results with the standard technique. The long-term success of this technique would be of great benefit to younger children with spinal deformity and their families, and in addition will enable cost saving for the NHS.”
Cheryl Honeyman, specialist nurse scoliosis and paediatric spine, said:” At South Tees, our expert staff endeavour to provide the best available treatments for patients and ensure they benefit from the latest new technology and procedures.
“We are delighted with Sarah’s progress and pleased to have helped make her more confident and comfortable about her treatment.”
Sarah’s father, Darren Wascoe from Middlesbrough, said: “This new procedure has made a huge difference to Sarah, she has been very brave and nothing stops her. She has just started senior school and the treatment has reduced disruption to her education and allowed her to get back to as normal a life possible very quickly.
“I would like to thank Mr Kalyan and all the brilliant staff for looking after her so well, we are very grateful.”
As Sarah is limited to light and non-contact sport activities for the next two years, she is going to concentrate on music and art at school in the meantime. Having kept a photographic diary about her experience she plans to use it as part of a fundraising campaign to help other children benefit from the same treatment.
She said: “I am happy to have had the treatment and don’t feel like I have had an operation at all. I want to thank everyone who was involved for looking after me.”