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Surgeons trial new spinal implant to treat scoliosis

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UK surgeons are trialling a new implant that could improve treatment for patients with a severe spinal condition.

Scoliosis, which causes the spine to twist and curve, can affect people of any age but most often starts in children aged 10 to 15.

While not everyone will need surgery, the current standard surgical treatment to correct significant curves — 45° or more — involves placing two circular metal rods either side of the spine which are screwed in between the vertebrae, known as the Universal Spine System (USS).

Surgeons in Southampton are conducting a study to compare the effectiveness of the USS with an alternative “train track” implant.

Using the MESA Rail implant, surgeons slot the unique beam-shaped rail into smaller screws, enabling it to be secured more rigidly to the spine and potentially helping to create better correction.

The study will recruit 60 patients over the next two years at Southampton General Hospital and Southampton Children’s Hospital.

“This is a really exciting and much-needed study to provide some clarity on which device is most effective at treating severe cases of scoliosis,” commented Evan Davies, a consultant spinal surgeon at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

“The MESA Rail has an innovative beam shape — similar to the way a train slots into railway tracks — which fits neatly into smaller screws. This enables us to get closer to the spine push and apply more force to correct it, […] leaving less room for movement, whereas the USS rods are round so not as stable in shape.

“There is some evidence that the MESA Rail can provide better realignment of the curve and, if this can be proven to be maintained long-term, it will reduce the need for further surgery.”