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What Are Magnetically Driven Growing Rods?

A Gillette provider looks at a patient's back.

Early-onset scoliosis (EOS) is when a child under age 10 has a curve in their spine that’s greater than 10 degrees. One of the first ways to treat EOS was with growing rods for scoliosis that were surgically placed on either side of the spine to help control the curve. But up to 10 surgeries could be required to lengthen the rods as the child grows. Left untreated, EOS may lead to severe spinal deformity, impaired lung development, restrictive lung disease, and an increased chance of dying. 

But in 2014, a new surgical treatment for EOS — magnetic growing rods — was approved by the FDA. After putting in the MAGECTM (MAGnetic Expansion Control) System, the magnetic growing rods can be lengthened with a remote control every three to six months in a doctor’s office without the need for repeated surgeries. It also reduces the chance of infection.

Are magnetic growing rods right for my child?

MAGEC growing rods can be an option for children who have large spinal curves that may continue to get worse and haven’t responded to bracing. To be considered for MAGEC growing rods, your child must:

  • Be diagnosed as having early-onset scoliosis or idiopathic scoliosis
  • Not have gone through puberty yet and have a lot of growing yet to do

MAGEC growing rods have not been approved for use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (both the MRI and the MAGEC rods are magnets). If your child gets periodic MRIs as part of their care, MAGEC growing rods may not be a good choice, so you’ll want to talk with your doctor.

If your child is over age 10, additional X-rays may be needed to see whether your child needs a treatment that gives them room to grow. If your child has finished growing, another method for treating scoliosis will be recommended.

What should we expect after surgery?

After your child recovers from their magnetic bracing surgery, they’ll be able to do what they did before and can return to school in three to four weeks. Normally, no follow-up bracing or physical therapy will be needed. Until your child visits an orthopedic surgeon six weeks after their surgery, your child won’t be allowed to do things that make them bend and twist their backs a lot, like gym class and sports.

MAGEC rod follow-up care

Six weeks after surgery, your child will visit a pediatric spine surgeon. During this visit, the doctor will:

  • Look at your child’s incision to see whether it’s healing properly.
  • Review new X-rays or ultrasounds to ensure the MAGEC rods are in the right place and bracing your child’s spine for future growth.
  • Plan and schedule your child’s first lengthening procedure.

After your child finishes growing, a final surgery will be performed to remove the rods and fuse their spine in place to keep it from moving.

Gillette Children’s: your scoliosis expert

Learn more about our hospital and world-renowned children’s orthopedics and specialty care center here in Minnesota. Contact your provider today.