Children's Health

Expandable Rib Gives Boy Room to Breathe

A new treatment for children born with scoliosis and chest cavity malformations is now available at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Five-year-old Jeremy Cadenhead of Wyoming is among the first in West Michigan to receive a vertical, expandable prosthetic titanium rib (VEPTR).

Diagnosed with scoliosis at age two, his spinal curve got larger rapidly and Cadenhead’s long-term survival was doubtful as the curve in his spine would limit his lung development without treatment. The VEPTR will allow his rib cage to expand and lungs to grow as his skeletal system matures, while reducing the curve in his spine at the same time.

“The VEPTR increases treatment options for young children with scoliosis,” said Jeff Cassidy, MD, orthopedics, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Unlike adolescents who develop scoliosis, children born with the disease often have fused ribs, preventing their chest cavities from growing and hindering lung development.’ Children without fused ribs can experience the same difficulties with lung development if they have very large curves in their spines, as is the case for Jeremy.”

Traditional scoliosis surgery, or spinal fusion, is often performed after a child’s peak growth years at approximately age 13. The VEPTR is ideal for young children because it does not negatively impact the spine and, therefore, does not impede growth. The device is attached perpendicular to the patient’s natural ribs. Once in place, its design allows for expansion through less invasive procedures as the child grows. Cadenhead will have 15 to 20 procedures in the next 10 years, with the first expansion slated for July.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. A teaching hospital, it includes more than 150 pediatric specialty physicians uniquely skilled in providing medical and surgical care to children in more than 40 pediatric specialties. The hospital cares for more than 7,500 inpatients and 150,000 outpatients annually. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation.