Growing Rods for Scoliosis

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Children with severe scoliosis often spend their entire childhood going through a series of painful surgeries to correct the curve in their spine, but all of those surgeries are no longer necessary thanks to breakthrough technology.

Twelve year old Brooke Olson may be small for her age, but karate has taught her to stand tall and proud. You'd never guess that just a few months earlier, Brooke had a hard time standing at all.

Inside Brooke's back are two titanium growing rods, surgically implanted to correct the curve in her spine that worsened to 60 degrees last year.

Brooke's mother, Lynise Olson, told Ivanhoe, "Her back was in pain pretty much all the time at that point."

Traditional treatment would have required Brooke to undergo surgery to lengthen the rods every six months, until she stopped growing.

Lynise said, "So that would've been, you know, 10 surgeries she might've had to have."

Brooke was one of the first patients to have "magnetic" growing rods implanted. Now, instead of surgery, her doctors use a non-invasive, magnetic remote control to adjust them.

Pediatric orthopedic surgeon and professor and chief of Pediatric Orthopedics at Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University, Gregory Mencio, MD, said, "It's an office visit every four months as opposed to an operative procedure every six to nine months. Pretty good trade off."

And Dr. Mencio points out, no more surgeries also means no more X-rays or anesthesia. It also means Brooke can spend more time at the dojo instead of the hospital.Submit

Because the magnetic growing rods are non-invasive, they can be adjusted more frequently and some doctors believe this will allow them to get an even better handle on a child's scoliosis.


Growing Rods for Scoliosis -- Research Summary

BACKGROUND: Scoliosis is an abnormal curve or bend in the spine that affects two percent of women and 0.5 percent of men worldwide. Over 80 percent of scoliosis cases have no known cause and are commonly found in otherwise healthy patients. The condition can run in families, especially those with a history of spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. There are three types of curves: a C-shape (levoscoliosis), a reverse C-shape (dextroscoliosis), and S-shape. Children and teens with untreated scoliosis can develop a more severe bend due to their skeleton's fast rate of growth. Usually, doctors recommend seeking treatment for scoliosis if the curvature is greater than 20 degrees. (Source:, )

TREATMENTS: Before a treatment plan can be determined, the patient's condition needs to be evaluated by a doctor. The patients' skeletal age and maturity and the degree of the curvature are the most important factors in deciding on whether a brace or surgery is necessary. For patients with small curvatures, the doctor may decide that an intervention is not needed and the condition is monitored on a regular basis to measure and evaluate the growth of the child. An orthopedic surgeon will take X-rays of the spine and will monitor if the curve increases. For patients in their adolescence and a curve of over 25 degrees, they are fitted with a back brace to stop the growth of the curvature. The brace will not fix the curve or cause any changes in the shape of the spine. More severe curvatures in children or adults require surgery, and can correct the condition by about 50 percent. Orthopedic surgeons can choose to enter through the back (posterior) or through the front (anterior) of the patient. (Source:,

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Gregory Mencio, MD, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon and Professor and Chief of Pediatric Orthopedics at Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University implanted magnetic growing rods in the first patient at Vanderbilt. The procedure uses MAGEC (magnetic expansion control) rods that are able to be non-invasively lengthened using an external remote. The rods are intended for patients under the age of 10 with a curvature of 30 degrees or more. Patients in pre-adolescence are subject to more risks and surgeries with other growing rod procedures. With the MAGEC rods, the patient only has X-rays to monitor the spine and lengthening and because the rods are controlled remotely, there are fewer surgeries. (Source: Gregory Mencio, MD,
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