MAGEC Device Transforms Scoliosis Treatment

Diagnosed with early onset scoliosis, 5-year-old Jayden Ortiz smiled as he underwent his first spine-lengthening treatment at Valley Children’s Hospital. “It feels like a massage!” he said enthusiastically. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Michael Elliott, and Jayden’s parents sitting nearby, chuckled. “Well that’s good!” said Dr. Elliott as he continued to gently glide a hand-held magnetic device across the boy’s back.

Jayden, who lives in Reedley, became Central California’s first patient to receive the innovative treatment. Valley Children’s introduced the magnetic technology in August to improve the severe curvature of Jayden’s spine and avoid the need for repeated, invasive, spine-lengthening treatments. Conventional growing rods require eight to 10 spine-lengthening surgeries during a child’s growing years. After the initial surgery, the painless MAGEC (MAGnetic Expansion Control) device enables surgeons to straighten the spine gradually and noninvasively.

If untreated, early-onset scoliosis – characterized by spinal curves that exceed 40 degrees and begin before age 8 – can seriously impair lung function, cause severe disfigurement, and shorten the child’s lifespan.

“MAGEC is an exciting, new treatment that revolutionizes the way we treat spinal deformities in young children,” Dr. Elliott said, noting that early-onset scoliosis occurs in 10 percent of children with scoliosis. “It’s ideal for certain patients.”

FDA-approved in February 2014, the MAGEC Spinal Bracing and Distraction System is the only noninvasive, distraction-based technology available worldwide for these young patients.

Jayden’s diagnosis

The ground-breaking tool couldn’t have come at a better time for Jayden and his family. In 2012, Jayden was among several children in California suddenly stricken by a mystery illness that causes polio-like paralysis. What began as persistent flu-like symptoms followed by escalating pain in Jayden’s neck and right arm quickly surpassed the Ortizs’ imagination.

“Within 24 hours, Jayden became paralyzed,” Synthia Ortiz, Jayden’s mom, said. “It was devastating.”

Jayden was diagnosed with enterovirus D68, which is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As Jayden’s condition worsened, his respiratory function became more compromised. He required complex treatment from various pediatric subspecialists, including a tracheostomy and a ventilator to help his breathing, a gastrostomy tube to help him take in food, pediatric rehabilitation therapy to increase his mobility, and more.

“Jayden never complained about anything,” Jessie Ortiz, Jayden’s dad, said. “When someone asked, ‘Why did this happen?’ Jayden said, ‘Only God knows why.’ He’s been so mature in how he’s handled this.”

Dr. Elliott believes the muscle-weakening effects of enterovirus 68 contributed to Jayden’s development of scoliosis. So earlier this year when Dr. Elliott told the Ortizs that Valley Children’s could now provide a cutting-edge treatment appropriate for Jayden’s condition, they were eager to learn more. “We were excited to try it,” Synthia said.

To correct Jayden’s scoliosis, Dr. Elliott first surgically inserted an adjustable rod in his spine in May. That procedure dramatically decreased his spine curvature from 50 degrees to 20 degrees.

“Since the surgery, Jayden can breathe and walk better and has more energy,” Jessie said. “Before he couldn’t get up from a sitting position.”

“And he doesn’t need the ventilator any more at night,” Synthia agreed, adding that suctioning mucous from his tracheostomy also is no longer necessary.

At Jayden’s first lengthening procedure, Dr. Elliott lightly ran the MAGEC device along his back to synch with the rod and pull it 4 millimeters. To keep up with normal spine growth and maintain the curve correction, Jayden will undergo the brief procedure every three months or so until he’s a teen. The traditional approach would have called for surgically lengthening his growing rod every six months.

The Ortizs were impressed. “Wow, it took only a few minutes,” Synthia said.

“We’re so grateful for Valley Children’s,” Jessie said. “This has been life-changing."