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New scoliosis surgery ‘could be revolutionary,’ but Halifax surgeon says questions remain

The ApiFix device was developed in Israel. Instead of two rods, it’s one with several joints that are flexible. It attaches to the spine with two to four screws.

El-Hawary spent months researching the device and procedure before he became convinced of its potential.

X-rays of a patient who received an ApiFix device show the change in the curvature of the spine months after the surgery. (Submitted by the IWK Hospital)

“I think it could be revolutionary, I think it’s a really intriguing concept,” said El-Hawary.

He said there are many benefits to the new device, including that it allows the patient to continue to have flexibility, instead of being limited by fusion rods.

The surgery for the ApiFix device also takes half the time — less than two hours — making it safer and less invasive for patients, as well as freeing up time in operating rooms.

Unknown future

While it might sound like a glowing endorsement, El-Hawary emphasizes the fact it’s a new procedure that needs further review.

Just over 100 patients in the world have reached two years or more since their surgery, a number that is considered a benchmark.

He said the surgery can be approved for certain cases in Canada and there’s an ApiFix study underway.

El-Hawary spends a lot of time warning his patients there’s no long-term knowledge of how the device will hold up.

“I tell them I don’t know what’s going to happen in 10 or 20 years. There’s lots of questions that are still unanswered and we’re doing lots of research to try to figure that out.”

He emphasizes that fusion surgeries will continue to be the standard until more studies are complete.

Dr. Ron El-Hawary and Jessica Robb say goodbye after Jessica was approved to return to Ontario and finish her recovery. (Submitted by the Robb family)

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