Health Team

New scoliosis rods straighten kids' spines without multiple surgeries

Posted November 28, 2017 10:22 a.m. EST

A new option to treat scoliosis in children could help some kids avoid multiple surgeries to reposition pins as they age.

Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, is the most common spinal disorder in children and adolescents. In more rare cases, it can appear in early childhood, and the problem can affect a child's heart and lungs if not corrected with bracing or with several spinal surgeries.

Everything seemed normal for 13-year-old Greyson Deal when he was born. But when he was about 15 months old, his mother said something was off.

"He was learning to crawl and walk and something just didn't look right," Kelly Deal said.

Travis and Kelly Deal learned it was early onset scoliosis, and Greyson's orthopedist hoped bracing would help correct the problem. Greyson wore a brace for as much as 23 hours a day for the next 10 years.

"It was really a struggle because I didn't want to put it on at all," Greyson Deal said.

Despite the braces, though, Greyson's spinal curve continued to increase to 60 degrees.

"Once a curve gets this big, bracing is really not an option—you can't control it with bracing," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Edmund Campion.

Campion, who works at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says the only option in the past was surgery to place temporary rods to straighten the spine. Those rods would lead to more surgeries.

"So, it would have required surgery every six months to go in to adjust the rods as Greyson grew," Travis Deal said.

So, Campion offered Greyson a new option.

"He told us about a new technology he called 'MAGEC Rods,'" Kelly Deal said.

In March 2016, Greyson had surgery to place the MAGEC Rods. The new rods are adjusted using a magnetic device, instead of surgery.

The device extends the rods about 4 millimeters per office visit, which Greyson does once every four months, and it does the work without any pain.

Travis Deal said it has made the whole process easier.

"It was an answer to prayer for our whole family," he said.

Once Greyson recovered and could stand up straight, his parents noticed a big difference.

"He looked taller," Travis Deal said.

"He did look taller," Kelly Deal agreed.

WRAL Health Team's Dr. Allen Mask said the final solution, once children with this type of severe scoliosis stop growing, is to have spinal fusion surgery using permanent rods.

Campion said UNC's center was among the first in the country to adopt the MAGEC Rods system.