Carbon back rods for scoliosis

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Scoliosis affects 6 million Americans and there is no cure. For more serious cases, patients may require surgery to fuse the spine. The surgical materials doctors use are generally not a problem for patients, but a new solution for an unexpected complication helped save one boy's life.

Daniel Stephen's parents call him their miracle. Doctors said he wouldn't live past the first night.

"He was not pink like a typical newborn baby who takes that gasp," said Dawn Stephens, Daniel's mother.

Daniel had major health problems, including early onset scoliosis. His spine was curved into his ribcage, squashing his lungs.

Surgeons implanted a VEPTR, or a vertical, expanding, prosthetic titanium rib, which doesn't usually cause any problems.

"He was scratching his head, his chest, he had belly pain," Jonathan Phillips, M.D., Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, told ABC30.

Turns out, Daniel is allergic to mostly all metals used to treat scoliosis. So, Dr. Phillips had an idea: to trick Daniel's immune system they removed the titanium rods and masked the metal by spraying it with carbon. Daniel's symptoms disappeared.

That's why the teen says he calls his doctor his hero.

"He's fought for Daniel, he's thought way outside the box, it's inspiring and it gives us hope, hope for another day," Dawn Stephens told ABC30.

Meanwhile, one of Daniel's biggest wishes...

"To reach 5 feet," Daniel said, "so I can drive go-carts."

Daniel has been allergy-free for the past four years. Dr. Phillip's carbon-coated rods research was recently published in Spine Deformity, The Official Journal of The Scoliosis Research Society.

For more information on this report, please contact:

Geo Morales
(321) 841-5766

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