A device that aims to straighten and lengthen the spine of children with scoliosis – a curvature of the spine – is supported in new NICE guidance.

The medical technology guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence encourages the NHS to use the MAGEC system in children aged 2 years and over who need surgery to correct their scoliosis.

This is specifically where standard methods to straighten the child's spine (such as wearing a back brace) have not worked. Using the device means the child can avoid repeated surgery with the associated effects and risks – and could save the NHS an estimated £12,000 per child over 6 years.

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves abnormally to the side. In many cases, no interventional treatment is needed because the spine corrects itself as the child grows.

 
If treatment is required, a back brace can help stop the spine from curving further - this brace is worn until the child stops growing.

Other standard options include using an external plaster cast, or growth rods that are surgically inserted around part of the spine. These standard rods are then extended twice a year via small incisions in the back; a procedure performed under general anaesthetic and which may require an overnight stay in hospital.

As the child grows, they will gain more height from having a straighter spine than from one that is curved.

Fusing the spine is the final option, but this limits spinal growth so is normally avoided until the child has stopped growing.

The MAGEC system includes one or two extendable titanium rods which are surgically inserted and attached to the spine or ribs above and below the curved section of spine.

This procedure to implant the rods is similar to that used for conventional rods. But the main difference is that the MAGEC system doesn't need periodic surgical procedures in order to lengthen the rods. Instead, using a magnet and screw system that sits within the rod, the length of the MAGEC system rod can be increased using a remote control device. This can be done in an outpatients clinic, and doesn't need a general anaesthetic.