Scientists invent extending spine-support system to cure progressive scoliosis

The new construction made of steel and titanium grows along with the growing skeleton of a child

Fourteen-year-old girl from the town of Lyubotin, the Kharkov region of Ukraine, added 14 centimeters to her height in one day only. The girl named Adelina became a tall and slim teenage girl owing to the efforts of specialists from the Kharkov-based Institute for Spinal and Articular Pathologies. The doctors straightened the girl's deflected spine with the help of a unique implantable prosthesis.

Instead of the S-shaped spine, which could be clearly seen on an X-ray picture of the girl's back, one may see a normal, straight vertebral column. There is a special construction on both sides of the spine, which supports the column in the vertical position. The construction is made of stainless steel and titanium. It took the doctors four hours to perform the unique operation on the girl. The patient was allowed to get up several days after the operation.

”My classmates will be surprised a lot when I become a ninth-grader after summer holidays!” the girl was saying enthusiastically after the operation. It is noteworthy that the question of personal attraction is extremely important for teenagers as they reach puberty. Kharkov specialists believe that they have successfully solved a very important medical problem: the main danger of the scoliotic deformity of the spine is caused with the improper positioning and, therefore, the improper functioning of internal organs, including the heart.

Special correcting constructions, which give the straight positioning to a curved human spine, are not new in modern medicine. The system, which doctors from Kharkov designed, has a remarkable feature: the titanium and steel construction can grow together with a child. The spine of the Ukrainian girl will be growing normally: the special threading on the implanted prosthesis pulls up the sliding part of metal rods. Specialists have been relieved of solving the sad dilemma, waiting for a sick child to stop growing while spinal deformities continue their development, or to insert metal constrictions, which implies a repeated operation in the future (to replace shorter rods with longer ones). The construction expires after ten or twelve years and can be subsequently removed from the body.

Like 40 other children, who have been operated in the Kharkov-based center, Adelina does not feel the presence of metal pivots in her back. A person unaware of the operation will never be able to notice any surgical deformities: the implanted system does not disfigure the natural shape of the back of an operated child. Such children can go to school, communicate with their friends and attend physical training classes, albeit with slight restrictions. Scientists say that they will need to modify the titanium system in the future to let young women have children. There was a unique occurrence in the history of such operations, when one of the hospital's patients had a car accident. The metal construction, which was implanted in the patient's back, saved the person's spine from injuries.

It is generally believed that progressive scoliosis is considered to be the weakest point in modern orthopedy: doctors are powerless when it comes to the treatment of little children. The youngest patient of the Kharkov-based hospital is only eight years old. Scientists say that it will be possible to operate five and six-year-old children in the future as well.

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Author`s name Olga Savka