Doctors can adjust the length of the rod fixing the child's spine with a remote control device

Remote-controlled rods to relieve scoliosis sufferers

Children suffering from scoliosis will no longer require multiple surgeries to adjust extendable rods fixing their spines as a remote-controlled version has been approved for the NHS to use.

Scoliosis is a condition of a spine which deforms and curves from one side to the other. Severe cases, with high probability of worsening, are usually recommended a surgery when doctors attach a titanium rod to the spine and ribs, correcting the curvature.

However, as the procedure is frequently indicated in children, doctors have to perform additional surgeries as the patient grows, adjusting the length of the extendable rod. Repeated surgeries obviously require prolonged stay in hospital, cause distress and force the sufferer to miss school and other activities. 

The new Magec (Magnetic Expansion Control) system, approved today by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), allows adjusting the length of the rod using remotely operated magnets.

Instead of a demanding surgical procedure requiring general anaesthetic, the young patient will be able to have the rod adjusted in an outpatient clinic and will go home the very same day. 

"For children who need treatment for scoliosis, and for whom standard treatment such as a back brace hasn't worked, surgery to implant conventional growth rods is an option,” said Professor Carole Longson, director of Nice's Centre for Health Technology Evaluation.

"In this draft guidance, the independent medical technologies advisory committee considered that there was evidence to support the use of the Magec system to help straighten and lengthen the spine in children aged between two and 11 years.

"By avoiding the need for the repeated surgical procedures, the committee accepted claims that the device can reduce the incidence of surgical complications and infections, cause less pain and distress and less time away from school."

Nice has estimated Magec could save the NHS around £12,000 per patient after six years compared with conventional rods.

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