A revolutionary operation involving magnets has helped heal a boy with a severely curved spine. 11-year-old Thaine Marston has since gained six inches in height, after magnets were inserted to straighten his back. This procedure would help him deal with early onset scoliosis as he grew older. Scoliosis-afflicted patients have an s-shaped spine which leads to stunted growth and respiratory problems.

The boy from Derbyshire, UK was diagnosed with the condition after he was taken to doctors for falling from a trampoline, two years ago. After this, his father found a lump on his back and took him to the Nottingham University Hospital. He was told that the boy would need invasive spinal correction surgery in order to straighten his spine.

While waiting for the operation, Thaine’s mother, Paula, was researching treatments on the internet when she found the MAGEC (Magnetic Expansion Control) treatment. This works through the insertion of a magnetic rod into the patient’s spine. This rod is adjustable and can grow, and can be controlled by an external remote control. The rod will be gradually lengthened by the magnets outside the body, which communicate with those inside his skin. This would straighten the spine.

The family showed consultant pediatric spinal surgeon Masood Shafafy the MAGEC rods. Thaine underwent the operation successfully at the Queen’s Medical Centre, in Nottingham. Just two days after the operation, which lasted five hours, he was up and about. In six days, he was allowed to go home.

Since then, the boy has had to get his spine straightened by a few millimeters in the hospital every six weeks. This will continue till he has reached his full height, until his 20s.

Thaine is one of just 300 people in the world to have had this MAGEC treatment. In its absence, he would have had to go through much more invasive surgery with the use of metal rods. Since then, he has shown a remarkable growth from 4ft 9ins to 5ft 3ins in the last 18 months. Though he can lead a normal life, he needs to exercise caution sometimes.

Thaine’s father Tony, who runs a convenience store and post office in Sheffield with his wife Paula, said that the operation had changed his son’s life to a great extent. He added that the MAGEC treatment was a better option since the scars resulting from it were shorter than if he had gone with the surgery. Added to that, the risk of the operation theatre and anesthesia was avoided, according to him.

Thaine’s surgeon Shafafy said, ‘The other treatments interfere with the growth and the patients never achieve normal growth. You either have to open them up and have repeated surgery or have disproportionate growth. Without a doubt it’s a really life-changing thing – it’s pioneering. It is quite exciting.”