Spinal fusion is the most commonly-used surgical treatment for scoliosis, but there are other procedures that can be used to combat a curvature of the spine. The use of magnetic growth rods is becoming more widespread - but exactly what does this procedure entail?
What are magnetic growth rods?
The magnetic growth rods procedure is relatively new, and it has been developed to improve the traditional growing rod procedures. Usually recommended only for young patients, the procedure is performed in an outpatient clinic under the control of an externally-applied magnet control device. It has shown itself to be a relatively safe and effective procedure, and only requires a short-term follow-up.
Magnetic growth rods aim to control the patient's spinal curve during the growth and development stage, until the patient nears skeletal maturity (after 11-13 years of age).
The procedure itself consists of single or dual titanium spinal rods that contain a magnetically drivable lengthening mechanism. These rods are inserted at the two most cranial levels and the two most caudal vertebral levels for distal fusion segments. Pedicle screws are used as anchors before passing the rods subcutaneous/submuscular to connect to each fusion segment. Patients are required to undergo a post-op procedure (distraction) after the initial surgery is complete.
What happens during the post-op procedure?
The post-op procedure is not very invasive, and patients are required to undergo follow-ups for 6 weeks for distraction. An external remote controller is placed over the internal magnet, and once applied, the rotating mechanism causes the rods to lengthen, thus distracting the spine. During each distraction visit, the aim is to lengthen the spine by 1.5 to 2mm. If the patient is experiencing any pain or discomfort, the device can retract. The procedure is pretty quick, and tends to last around 30 secs to a minute. This procedure is usually performed on children under the age of 7 that have been diagnosed with early onset scoliosis.
What complications can arise?
There are fewer complications associated with magnetic growth rods than with other scoliosis surgeries, but that doesn't mean there aren't any risks involved. There is a small chance that the rod may break and cause some damage to your spinal cord. There is also a risk that the pedicle screws may come loose and pull out, and on rare occasions, the device may also fail to construct a distraction. MAGEC rods are expected to last for approximately 24 to 36 months before they have to be replaced, at which point you will have to undergo surgery again.
How can we help?
If you don't want your child to undergo this type of scoliosis surgery, or if you're looking for something to help with the rehab process, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help! We treat all of our patients non-surgically, treating their conditions using an exercise-based treatment method that provides unrivalled treatment success.
Please feel free to contact us to find out more about our unique treatment method, or to book an initial consultation.