State of the art spine treatment helps St. Luke's scoliosis patients

Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-11 23:00:19-05

Jonah Kissell has Noonan Syndrome, a disorder that involves unusual facial characteristics, short stature, heart defects present at birth, bleeding problems, developmental delays, and malformations of the bones of the rib cage. 

At seven years old, Jonah has had dozens of surgeries. 

Jonah developed early-onset scoliosis, but instead of subjecting Jonah to treatment that would require surgery every six months, doctors at St. Luke's opted to treat Jonah with the help of MAGEC Rods.

Screws are placed in a patient's back and linked together like a traditional scoliosis treatment, but, instead of going through surgery twice a year, patients have their rods extended through magnetic pulses. 

"We program the length and push a button," Dr. Jason Robsion, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at St. Luke's, said. "It vibrates. The kids laugh a little bit, and then we're done." 

Thanks to the rods, Jonah spends a few minutes on an exam table instead of days in the hospital preparing for and recovering from surgeries. Jonah's parents say with Jonah's conditions, keeping him out of the operating room is ideal.  

"The less surgeries the better," Mandy Kissell, Jonah's mom, said.

Jonah's parents say this device gives him a chance to be a normal kid again, instead of one confined to a hospital room.

"It definitely brings joy to us to have him move and be healthy and have him be just a running, little, joyful boy," Tony Kissell, Jonah's dad, said.

This type of treatment has been available in the United States for about three years, and St. Luke's is the only hospital in Idaho to offer it. 

The Magec Rods are initially more expensive than other treatments, but doctors say without the cost of additional surgeries, the rods are cost-neutral after three years. 

"Having the magnetic rods was definitely a blessing," Mandy said.