Local doctors use new alternative to treat severe scoliosis

Local doctors have a new way to treat children with severe scoliosis - which is a curvature of the spine. The innovative treatment helps cut down the number of operations needed.

Seven year old Bradey Scout is always moving.

"He keeps me on my toes 24/7," said Susan Scout, mother.

When Bradey was four, his doctor noticed a bulge on his back and an x-ray showed a sideways curve to his spine.

If the curve isn't controlled, scoliosis can cause back pain, and affect a child's breathing.

Braces and body casts weren't the solution for Bradey.

Another option could have been traditional surgery where doctors would implant metal rods on either side of the spine.

They're adjusted every three to six months as a child grows and each time it has to be done surgically, under general anesthesia.

Doctors say having 20 or more of these operations in a just few years takes a toll.

"Surgical scars on top of emotional scars - the fear and anxiety of having to come back and forth to the operating room," said Dr. Patrick Cahill, Shriner's Hospital Philadelphia.

So now local doctors now have a new alternative.

The MAGEC system which stands for Magnetic Expansion Control, uses implanted rods that are lengthened magnetically, from outside the body.

Bradey got them in August at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital in Delaware. His first adjustment was last week and we're told it went well.

Tianni Swint also has severe scoliosis.

She got the MAGEC rods in April at Shriners in Philadelphia and she's is back for her second adjustment.

After marking the location of the expanders, Dr. Cahill activates them with a remote controller.

The rods are lengthened about a quarter of an inch every three months - a small amount each time close to the way children grow.

"Having this procedure where she doesn't have to be put to sleep, she's just sitting there - it's so much better," said Shakima Swint.

Kids don't feel the change, and Dr. Cahill says there haven't been any infections, or serious complications with MAGEC.

"This is a revolutionary advance for children with spinal deformities," said Dr. Cahill.

As children grow, they will need surgery to get longer MAGEC rods. However the overall number of operations is reduced from about 20 to just 4.

The system is for kids with severe scoliosis who are still growing.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has the system now as well.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.