Patient Care

Innovative New Spinal Device for Children with Severe Scoliosis

Aug. 4, 2014

At age 11, Matthew Morgan has already undergone 13 surgeries to correct his scoliosis.

His treatment has been the standard regimen administered to thousands of youngsters who suffer from the disease: doctors placed a growing rod in his back to stabilize his spine, and then, every six months, they opened him back up to extend the rod by an inch or two, to accommodate for his growth.

But a new magnetic growing rod device — approved by the FDA in February — allows for doctors to make painless adjustments via external remote in an outpatient setting. The rod, powered by magnetic motor, eliminates the need for the every-six-months surgeries — and the mental trauma and occasional medical complications — that many children with scoliosis were forced to endure.

“Surgery is traumatic for children, and every time you open up the skin, particularly through an old scar, you increase your risk of infection,” said James Sanders, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Orthopaedics at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “So anything we can do to try to continue the spine’s growth but decrease the amount of surgeries is a very good thing.”

Matthew is one of two children at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital who have received the new magnetic growing rod. The device, which is called the MAGEC System, is manufactured by Ellipse Technologies, and had been used successfully in Europe several years prior to its arrival here. Golisano Children’s Hospital was the second hospital in the country to install the device since its approval.

Now, instead of surgery every six months, Matthew comes to outpatient appointments on a more frequent basis, where tiny adjustments are made to the rod via remote. The procedures are quick and painless.

“My hope is that one day these rods will be the standard, and surgery every 6 months will be a thing of history,” said Bill Morgan, Matthew’s father.