Surgeons offer groundbreaking treatment for scoliosis

SAN DIEGO — In the first surgery of its kind in United States, surgeons in San Diego implanted magnetic growing rods in two children with severe early onset scoliosis.

Tommy Thomas, 5, and 9-year-old Anthony Wainess each underwent surgery Tuesday for their scoliosis, a rare condition can interfere with lung function and standard treatment usually requires multiple surgeries.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 1.55.01 PMBefore surgery, Wainess walked with a severe lean. Tommy had to wear a heavy plaster vest.

“I hope I feel better and that my spine is straight,” said Wainess, before going into the operating room.

“For [Tommy] to have to undergo surgery every six months, which would be required with the traditional routes, would just be very hard on his body and it could be fatal for him,” said Tommy’s mother Rachel Thomas.

“The disease is bad enough, but the treatment is also another burden,” said Ed Roschak, CEO of Ellipse Technologies which developed the device.

The device, called MAGEC uses rare earth magnets to slowly lengthen the spine non-invasively.

“This rod extends so over the course of many years we save a lot of operations,” said Dr. Behrooz Akbarnia, Medical Director for the San Diego Center for Spinal Disorders.

Dr. Akbarnia and orthopaedic surgeons Burt Yaszay, M.D. and Greg Mundis, M.D. operated on both boys.

MAGEC hasn’t been approved for use in the U.S. but the FDA did allow the two surgery for Compassionate Use only which is where patients with severe diseases and few alternatives are granted access to otherwise unapproved products.

“[Tommy] asked me this morning when he woke up, ‘Did I get my new back?’” said Rachel Thomas.

Both families said the surgeries went well and are life changing.

“For him to have the chance to get the magnetic rod which allows him to have one surgery and go back to being a five year old is just magic basically,” said Thomas.

Anthony Wainess’ father Steven called it a game changer.

“This device is really going to save children like my son from just incredibly difficult surgeries that just interrupt their life if not depress then for their entire life,” he said.