New guidance to spare curved spine children 'medieval' treatment

Scoliosis X-Ray. Pic: Thinkstock Scoliosis treatment can involve metal rods being used to correct spinal curvatures

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New guidance from the NHS for children with curved spines could save patients from enduring a "medieval" ongoing treatment, it is claimed.

Guidance recommends that youngsters are treated with remote-controlled rods attached to their spines.

It means that periodic surgery, to adjust previously manually-lengthened rods as children grow, is not required.

The guidance was developed with the help of Jane Clarke, from Devon, whose grandson had the new rods fitted.


I was 16 when I had two rods screwed into my spine to correct kyphosis, similar to scoliosis.

My spine was bent forward instead of sideways but I was seen by scoliosis specialists and the rods were put in to ensure my airway was not distorted.

It's very invasive. I was in bed for five weeks for two three-hour operations which left me with foot-long scars and having to wear a back brace for seven months. I also had to learn to walk again.

Although I just underwent one course of treatment, the idea of undergoing further procedures to have rods lengthened is quite scary to me as an adult.

However, the treatment was worth it - I was immediately standing straighter and have never had any blocking of the windpipe.

There have been disadvantages - I was recommended not to play major contact sports, and I have to be slightly careful when doing serious lifting. But I'm fully mobile.

Surgery is only considered to correct scoliosis - a sideways curvature of the spine - after standard methods such as a back brace have not worked.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) published draft guidelines in January to the health service to use the Magec (Magnetic Expansion Control) system in such cases. They have now been formally issued.

A remote-control device uses magnets to adjust the length of expandable titanium rods - a procedure which can be done during an outpatient appointment, saving the child undergoing general anaesthetic.

As well as sparing children multiple operations, the device could also save the NHS about £12,000 for each patient, Nice said.

Jane Clarke, from near Holsworthy, helped develop the Nice guidance after the device was fitted to her grandson, Reece Fiander.

She said the 11-year-old had avoided four bouts of surgery over two years as a result.

She said: "The old way was medieval - watching a child undergo an operation is awful, but it's even harder when it's a spinal operation."

She added: "We hope that other children won't have to go through the old way any more.

"It will save them the physical and psychological trauma of having to undergo operations every six months."

Reece said he "can do a lot more really" as a result of the new treatment.

Scoliosis patient Reece Fiander. Scoliosis patient Reece Fiander had the remote control rods inserted two years ago

He said: "I've got a zip wire in the garden and I wouldn't be able to do that if I'd been opened up a few days ago.

"The feeling of [the treatment] only lasts up to an hour and then I can do whatever I want again afterwards."

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