Cohen Children’s Center champions scoliosis treatment

James Galloway

Jordan Jennings’ severe scoliosis left her spine bent like an ice cream scoop until a procedure performed for the first time on Long Island at Cohen Children’s Medical Center straightened things out.

On March 2, doctors at the North Shore LIJ hospital in New Hyde Park surgically installed two MAGEC metal rods in the four year old’s back, which curved like an ‘S’ in a near half circle.

Doctors can magnetically extend the MAGEC rods, short for Magnetic Expansion Control, to grow along with Jordan, sparing her from invasive lengthening surgeries every six months that the traditional procedure requires.

“I just couldn’t accept that my daughter would have to face a childhood of painful surgeries every six months,” Joanne Jennings, Jordan’s mom, said at a recent press conference. “I wanted her to have a chance to be a normal little girl.”

Dr. Terry Amaral, the chief of pediatric orthopedics at Cohen, said MAGEC, which gained FDA approval last year, marks a significant advancement in the treatment of scoliosis and noted the benefits that come with avoiding surgery.

“You don’t have to undergo another anesthetic exposure…. You’re not undergoing an incision. You’re not undergoing the risks of infection, and then there’s the issue of recovery: there is no recovery. There is no pain,” he said. “The traditional treatment route was very hard on the patient and the family.”

Five weeks after the surgery, Jordan’s parents say she is energetic, out of her wheelchair and more equipped to handle daily life.

“Now that the procedure is done and I see her moving around, I feel so good that she’s able to do this,” said her father, Douglas Jennings. “I just consider it a blessing.”

Dr. Selina Poon, Jordan’s surgeon, said that by December 2014, Jordan’s spine had curved to 130 degrees, too severe for a brace, and that chiropractic and treatments were ineffective.  

Surgery became the only option.

“In order to prevent breathing complications and damage to other internal organs, we must straighten out the severe spinal curvature,”Amaral said. “We’re so proud of the fact that we were able to use this new technology to relieve Jordan’s situation while avoiding the stress and complications of future lengthening surgeries.”

The surgery cut the curvature in half, Poon said.

“We’re happy to report that after this successful surgery, Jordan’s curvature has been reduced to 66 degrees,” Poon said. “She is not perfectly straight, but she is significantly better. And, she is happy and energetic…she’s the kind of child who will bounce right back.”

And the lengthening procedures, Poon said, can be performed quickly and painlessly in the office.

“Instead of going back to surgery, she’s laying in the office — hopefully we have an iPad at that time so she can be playing and distracted — and we lengthen her in the office as she’s comfortably playing,” she said.

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