This Magnetic System Eases the Need for Scoliosis Surgery (Video)

The personal story behind a scoliosis breakthrough

Stanley with doctor

Stanley Wesemeyer, age 6, may not understand how the magnetic rod in his back treats his scoliosis. But he was definitely looking forward to attending Cub Scout camp for the first time ever this summer — instead of having surgery.

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Wesemeyer had early-onset scoliosis, which left him with a severe curve in his spine by age 2. The treatment at the time required follow-up surgeries every 6 months to replace a metal rod attached to his spine.

But all that has changed thanks to a magnetic device implanted by Ryan Goodwin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon.

An evolved treatment

The reason for all the follow-up procedures: Kids grow. In the past, that meant doctors needed to replace metal rods to account for growth while keeping the spine aligned.

“With a young child, their entire chest cage has to continue growing,” Dr. Goodwin notes. But the repeated surgeries can take a toll on children and their parents.

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Enter the Magec, a magnetic device that updates the treatment concept.

“The new device has a magnetic actuator,” Dr. Goodwin says. “It’s an expandable rod, so once it’s implanted, it’s not necessary to go back in with another operation to lengthen it.”

Instead, Dr. Goodwin simply uses a remote control, run along the length of the patient’s back, to adjust the length of the implanted rod. Any child with scoliosis who is a candidate for the traditional growing rods is a candidate for Magec, as early as age 2, Dr. Goodwin says.

Fewer surgeries — and an easier process

Stanley’s mother, Shari Wesemeyer, had a hard time with nights in the hospital for surgeries. And questions such as, “Mommy, why do I have to have surgery?” were never easy to answer.

The new treatment has changed the situation. After numerous rod replacements, Stanley suffered from an infection that did not heal properly. Dr. Goodwin saw this unfortunate occurrence as a chance to move to the Magec setup instead.

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Now, “he goes to the doctor’s office — totally different — he goes in for maybe 15 minutes and everything’s done,” Wesemeyer says. Stanley can even go back to school or whatever activities he has planned for the day.

“He can do anything a normal kid can do, except cartwheels, somersaults and things like that, but he’s pretty active,” Wesemeyer says.

In the long term, the magnetic procedure may save countless surgeries for patients such as Stanley. Instead of needing to be replaced every six months, it requires replacement only every three to four years, Dr. Goodwin says. And instead of a surgery, a patient needs only a short office visit with little to no pain involved.

“Certainly it can provide a significant reduction in the number of surgeries a child is going to need for this problem,” Dr. Goodwin says.

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