http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=2221812005




Thu 10 Nov 2005
BRIGHT IDEA: Dr Burke with the award for his idea to reduce the number of operations needed by scoliosis sufferers.
Picture: KENNY SMITH
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City surgeon's invention set to transform spine treatment

LINDA SUMMERHAYES
HEALTH REPORTER

AN invention which will save children from years of traumatic surgery is set to revolutionise the treatment of a rare spinal disorder.

The device is the brainchild of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary's consultant orthopaedic spine surgeon John Burke, who has just won a major innovation award for his design.

Currently, young children who suffer from scoliosis - a disorder which, if left unchecked, can result in severe curvature of the spine - are fitted with a telescopic titanium rod which supports their spine.

Every six months, as the infant grows, the child has to undergo further surgery to lengthen the implant and keep the deformity at bay.

The scoliosis in children who require this type of surgery is usually discovered at around three years old and regular surgery continues for approximately seven years.

But because Dr Burke's deformity correction implant is fitted between each of the vertebrae in the back, and grows with the child, regular surgery is unnecessary.

The system is expected to be so efficient that major corrective surgery of the spine later in life is less likely to be needed.

Expected to be made of cobalt chrome, Dr Burke believes his implant could also help children who suffer from knock-knees and club foot syndrome.

Dr Burke, who also works at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, said: "Scoliosis is quite a rare thing and much more common in Europe than it is in America. It's a terribly difficult problem to deal with and what I've invented is a device that you put in and it grows with them.

"Essentially, it's still a concept and is really at the beginning of its development.

"Now we need to get it computer-modelled and get a prototype which can be tested.

"It's a new concept so we need to do extensive tests before we can use it on a child."

Scoliosis can develop at any time during childhood and adolescence but only two in every 10,000 infants are diagnosed.

Severe deformity, now uncommon due to modern treatment, can lead to damaged lung function, or disability in middle age.

Ailee Harrison of the Scoliosis Association said: "It's very rare in infants and very important that it's diagnosed early.

"For those who have to have surgery, this invention will be fantastic because it should cut the number of operations, which is so awful for young children.

"Also, it's very important that families and doctors and midwives who suspect a young baby might have a problem refer them to their GP as soon as possible."

Dr Burke's design joined 1200 entries and he was handed the prize for Best Innovation to Improve Child Health by child welfare campaigner Esther Rantzen at a prestigious award ceremony in London last week.

Award founder Andy Goldberg, of the Medical Futures organisation, said: "This year's entries were truly the best of British healthcare.

"Dr Burke's idea had to beat a very strong field to win and it won because the judges believed that it will make a huge difference to scoliosis sufferers in this country. It is an elegant solution to a profound problem."