For Treating Kids with Severe Spinal Deformities, a Magnet Replaces the Scalpel

A magnetic device that may eliminate the need for ongoing spine-lengthening follow-up surgeries makes its NYC debut at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NEW YORK (May 16, 2014) – A 5-year-old boy diagnosed with early-onset scoliosis, a severe curvature of the spine, is the first patient in the New York area to receive a novel treatment using magnetic technology to correct this condition and avoid the need for repeated spine-lengthening surgeries.

An alternative to traditional growing rods, which require 8–10 lengthening surgeries during a child's growing years, the MAGEC device allows surgeons to straighten and correct the spine gradually and noninvasively.

"The MAGEC device, which uses external magnets to control a rod implanted in the spine, is for children diagnosed with progressive early-onset scoliosis who have not benefited from nonsurgical treatments," says the boy's surgeon, Dr. Michael Vitale, associate director of the Division of Pediatric Orthopedics, chief of the pediatric spine and scoliosis service at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, and the Ana Lucia Professor of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center, who performed the procedure in April.

Dr. Vitale expects this advance to improve outcomes in children with severe spinal deformities. "This new approach is designed to obviate the need for repeated trips to the operating room, as well as eliminate complications from infections and the psychosocial effects of multiple surgeries."

Children diagnosed with early-onset scoliosis, characterized by spinal curves that exceed 40 degrees, represent about 10 percent of all children diagnosed with scoliosis, says Dr. Vitale. Left untreated, children with the condition are at risk for developing cardiac and/or respiratory problems related to stunted growth and development.

Minimally Invasive Spine-Lengthening Solution

Candidates for the MAGEC device undergo an initial surgery to implant an adjustable magnetized growing rod. Once the rod is implanted, it can be lengthened externally with a hand-held magnetized device, which eventually straightens the spine.

The rod-lengthening process, which typically takes about 15 minutes, is performed on patients every three to six months, until age 10. Dr. Vitale's first patient to receive the MAGEC device in April will return in three months to initiate the lengthening process.

The MAGEC system has been used successfully to treat more than 750 children in 24 countries. For the past five years, Dr. Vitale has been part of efforts to advocate for FDA approval of the device. In February 2014, the MAGEC system, manufactured by Ellipse Technologies, Inc., received FDA clearance for use in young patients who have severe spinal deformities associated with thoracic insufficiency syndrome or are at risk for the syndrome.

Dr. Michael Vitale declares no financial or other conflicts of interests with Ellipse Technologies.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, located in New York City, offers the best available care in every area of pediatrics — including the most complex neonatal and critical care, and all areas of pediatric subspecialties — in a family-friendly and technologically advanced setting. Building a reputation for more than a century as one of the nation’s premier children’s hospitals, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital is affiliated with the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is Manhattan’s only hospital dedicated solely to the care of children and one of the largest providers of children’s health services in the tri-state area with a long-standing commitment to its community. It is also a major international referral center, meeting the special needs of children from infancy through adolescence worldwide. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. For more information, visit

Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit or

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Department of Public Affairs NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center 627 West 165th St. New York, NY 10032

Contact Takla Boujaoude 212-821-0560

Karin Eskenazi 212-342-0508 email:

This story originally appeared on the NewYork-Presbyterian website.

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