Magnetic Grow Rods for Scoliosis Treatment Reduce Surgeries

A standard treatment of care for severe, progressive scoliosis involves surgery to implant adjustable metal rods that brace the spine in order to minimize curvature during growth. Although  effective, the rods need to be surgically lengthened or distracted at regular intervals—about every  six months—as patients grow and reach skeletal maturity. When the rods are removed, a child  could have undergone 10 or more surgeries to adjust the rod length.

For the past two years, Scott Luhmann, MD, Washington University pediatric orthopedic surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, has offered to eligible patients the MAGEC® Spinal Bracing and Distraction System, which provides a less invasive option for distracting grow rods.

“These grow rods are implanted the same way as conventional rods—anchoring them above and below the curvature—but the MAGEC rods contain a small internal magnet,” explains Dr. Luhmann. “When the rods need to be lengthened, it’s a simple matter of placing an external remote control over the patient’s spine to activate the magnet and adjust the rods. This is done in the orthopedic surgery clinic without anesthetic and with no pain for the patient.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved the MAGEC rods for use in children 10 years old or younger with progressive curvatures of 50 degrees or more. Over the past year, Dr. Luhmann has become the national leader in the use of MAGEC rods, with 26 of his patients now benefiting from them.

“I’ve found my outcomes with the MAGEC rods to be comparable to those I achieved using standard grow rods,” says Dr. Luhmann. “My ability to lengthen the rods more frequently certainly contributes to successful outcomes.”

As with conventional rods, the MAGEC rods can break and need surgical replacement; in some cases, a longer MAGEC rod may need to be implanted as patients grow. In either case, patients still benefit from not having to undergo multiple surgeries for the sole purpose of lengthening the rods.

“Once patients reach skeletal maturity, the grow rods — either conventional or MAGEC—are removed. Most then undergo a definitive spinal fusion, which can further improve alignment and appearance,” says Dr. Luhmann. “We’ve made significant progress in our ability to normalize spinal alignment for our patients with severe scoliosis. The MAGEC rods make it a much less uncomfortable process.”

Doctor's Digest, St. Louis Children's Hospital

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