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For Immediate Release

Surgically Implanted Titanium Rib Corrects Scoliosis and Improves Lung Function in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Patients

The federal government is deciding whether to approve a breakthrough medical device tested at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh that gives developing lungs room to grow and corrects curved spines in patients with scoliosis.

Children's became only the second center in the world in 1997 to implant titanium ribs in patients with chest wall and spine deformities that impair lung function and bone growth. Since then, 10 additional pediatric centers have joined a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study of the Vertical Expandable Titanium Rib (VEPTR), which was developed at CHRISTUS Santa Rose Children's Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

In all, approximately 250 children worldwide have received titanium ribs as part of the study, including 18 at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The FDA soon is expected to make the VEPTR much more widely available by allowing additional hospitals to implant the device.

On Feb. 19, 2004, Sara Amodei, 3, who has congenital scoliosis, had a titanium rib implanted onto her left rib cage during a six-hour operation. She had a titanium rib implanted onto her right rib cage in December 2002. She had excellent results from the first implant and is recovering from her most recent implant.

"The titanium rib has substantial benefits for Sara and our other patients. It expands the chest wall and increases chest volume. By doing this, we have greatly improved the lung function of children who require oxygen," said Vincent Deeney, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Children's and one of the investigators in the study. "For patients with scoliosis, the titanium ribs have delayed further curving of the spine and, in some cases, even allowed further spine growth. This is impossible with spine fusion, the standard treatment for scoliosis."

The titanium rib is implanted onto a patient's rib and spine during the initial surgery. Follow-up surgeries are performed every four to six months to expand the device, which facilitates growth of the chest wall. The device exerts pressure on the spine without fusion and allows growth to continue while also helping to control the scoliosis.

"Before the first titanium rib was implanted, Sara had to be on oxygen all the time in order to breath. Now she is able to play without oxygen for up to three hours at a time," said her mother, Kim Amodei, of Elizabethtown, near Hershey. "Without the titanium ribs, she would have suffocated. We were told she would never live to see her second birthday. She turned 3 last September."

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008