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YOUR HEALTH: Exposing your kids to fewer rays

A new device is saving kids from toxic radiation during spinal surgery

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. — The average kid gets about seven scans that rely on radiation before the age of 18, either because they're ill or they've been injured. 

Too much radiation in kids have been linked to cancer later in life. 

But a new device is reducing radiation exposure and its nasty side effects.

"The goal of a pediatric spine surgeon really is to deliver the best care to the child while keeping them safe," explained Dr. Raymund Woo, Medical Director of Pediatric Orthopedics at Florida's AdventHealth.

Every year more than 100,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition where there's a sideways curve of a child's backbone.

For severe cases, surgery may be required. 

Typically, during surgery surgeons will use computer-assisted navigation with either an X-ray or a CT scan in the operating room. 

"It exposes the patient to radiation, and that leads to risks for infection and blood loss, longer recovery," said Dr. Woo.

Now, he's using a new device to reduce radiation exposure to kids.

It's called the 7-D flash navigation system.

"It uses the same technology that your cell phone use for facial recognition that unlocks your cell phone," he explained.

"So instead of having the camera unlock the cell phone, you've got a camera that looks into the patients' body through the incision." 

It allows surgeons to see the spine. 

The device uses no radiation and increases efficiency for surgeons.

"This saves me about an hour and a half all in all."

And for kids, that means less time in the hospital, a shorter recovery and getting back to a normal routine sooner. 

FDA approves new "tether technology"

The Food and Drug Administration approved a device for anterior vertebral body tethering to treat kids with idiopathic scoliosis. 

The device allows for the gradual correction of a spinal deformity through the natural growth of the spine, leading to improvements in spinal alignment while maintaining spinal flexibility. 

The device is attached to the spine during a minimally invasive thoracoscopic procedure. 

The "tether" has the opportunity to improve pediatric surgical outcomes as well as improve the quality of life for children and adolescents with significant spinal deformities. 

The most common type of scoliosis is called idiopathic scoliosis and can occur in children between the ages of ten and 18, or until they are fully grown.

Fusion is still an option

Spinal fusion surgery is the most common treatment for severe cases of spinal curvatures. 

It takes three months for an adolescent to recover fully from this procedure. 

In clinical trials, the spinal tether was shown to shorten recovery time and increase their range of motion. 

To determine which treatment is more beneficial for your child, early diagnosis is critical.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.