Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

Why the “Robotic Spine” Treatment for Scoliosis May be Premature

With the rapid rate of change among medical technologies and treatment techniques, most have begun to expect something revolutionary in the field every week. Unfortunately, as a story from Ireland about a new treatment for scoliosis reveals, sometimes “unbelievable medical advances” are just that.

Dr. Isador Lieberman, a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute, is an internationally recognized expert on the treatment of scoliosis.

“There is no known cure for this condition which results in a sideways curvature of the spine,” he notes.



According to the website “Spine and Health” scoliosis occurs in about 2 percent of the population. It is usually first noticed in younger patients and is treated with physical therapy and in some cases surgery. While there have been several studies on innovative treatments which offer hope for suffers of this condition, the use of magnetic forces to correct scoliosis has recently been reported by media in Great Britain.

Medical Breakthrough or Overzealous Media Report?

The headline in the popular UK news site – Metro – trumpeted a high tech solution in the hyperbolic style for which the British media have become known for. It stated:

Woman becomes world’s first adult to get ‘robotic spine’

According to the story, “An Irish woman has become the first adult in the world to receive a revolutionary remote controlled ‘robo spine’.”

“Deirdre McDonnell, 34, from Drogheda, County Louth, says her life has ‘completely changed’ after undergoing the pioneering MAGEC rod operation – which uses magnets to combat the effects of scoliosis.

The operation involves the insertion of a magnetic rod that is screwed onto the spine and controlled externally in order to correct the curvature caused by scoliosis.”

If this type of treatment for the ancient condition of scoliosis which uses bone implant magnets and remote controlled therapy was effective, it could dramatically change the way this painful condition was treated. Unfortunately, Dr. Lieberman is skeptical.

This Treatment Could Be Problematic


By virtue of his 23 years involved in the conception, development, testing and implementation of multiple cutting edge spine surgery technologies, Dr. Lieberman is an excellent resource to critically appraise these types of  medical technology stories which have appeared in this space.

“This treatment simply does not make biomechanical or physiologic sense,” he said. “This has not been fully evaluated in the adult, and even for the children for which is was designed, it is problematic, with less than a stellar predictable outcome.”

Dr. Lieberman is open to innovative, even unusual treatment for this condition which affects so many people, many of whom are his patients. However, he is adamant that any new treatment must be properly tested and the results studied before they are used on patients and well before they are publicized in the lay media.

“There are many technologies being tested now,” he notes. “They are all experimental.”

What does Dr. Lieberman think of the headline of this story which points out how this procedure resulted in the first “robotic spine?”

“This is not really an example of ‘robotic surgery,” he notes. “This is an example of ‘smart implants.’ When one thinks of “robots” one thinks of artificial limbs (prosthetics) that are somehow linked to the patients nervous system in an effort to provide useful function or motion.  This technology is nothing more than an electronic elongatable ratchet rod used to straighten the spine.”

Texas Back Institute has been involved in many, technological advances in the treatment of spinal disease and injuries, including the placement of first artificial disc in the United States. What looks like a “medical miracle” to laymen, is a rigorous, often time-consuming process of patient treatment and the collection of medical data to the experts at Texas Back Institute.

True medical innovation is based on science and facts.

If you, or a member off your family have concerns about scoliosis, feel free to contact the Scoliosis and Tumor program at the Texas Back Institute. We are committed to providing you with the most appropriate and least invasive treatment options.

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