An Irish woman has become the first adult in the world to receive a remote-controlled, robotic spine implant to combat the effects of congenital scoliosis.
Thirty-four-year-old Deirdre McDonnell, from Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland, underwent a magnetic expansion control system (MAGEC) rod operation to have a magnetic rod screwed onto her spine. The rod can be controlled externally to correct the curvature caused by scoliosis.
After the surgery, the rod was gradually lengthened from outside of the skin with the use of the External Remote Control (ERC). McDonnell’s spine was straightened at regular intervals over a few months. She is now fully recovered.
“I’m no longer in pain, and I feel so much more confident in myself, McDonnell told Metro UK. Even little things like being able to wear pretty dresses or sit comfortably have made such a change. I feel so lucky to have been able to have this operation – it really has changed my life.”
She added, “Before, I could only walk short distances without being in pain but now I love to walk everywhere. After more than 30 years of operations and taking painkillers, I’m finally hopeful for the future.”
The £15K procedure, which has been around since 2011, has only been performed on children, as it was thought only to be effective for early onset scoliosis.
According to Metro UK, McDonnell was born with congenital scoliosis, a condition that affects about one in 10,000 newborn babies, and underwent her first operation at just six weeks old. Her spine was so malformed doctors didn’t think she’d live past the age of seven. Over the next ten years, she underwent eight painful operations as doctors battled to save her life.
According to the DailyMail, McDonnell survived childhood and become a teacher. However, the secondary effects of her scoliosis left her unable to work.
“Because my spine was curved at 130 degrees, it formed into a C-shape and my lungs didn’t have room to expand so they never grew to full size. At my worst, my lungs were operating at only 30 percent of what they should have been. This meant that I was constantly poorly with pneumonia and chest infections. Doctors said they didn’t know what else they could do. Things got so bad that my doctor told me that if he didn’t operate, I’d be dead within 10 years.”[via Metro UK]