Use of Titanium Rib increases, resulting in more lives saved

Robert M. Campbell Jr., M.D.

The Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib, an invention developed and validated over the past 19 years at the Health Science Center and CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, is having a major impact on the way surgeons treat children whose lung growth is threatened by chest wall abnormalities, its inventor says.

Only five years ago, most pediatric orthopaedic surgeons thought fusing the spine was the best treatment for these children. “The orthopaedic strategy for any sort of spine deformity was to just permanently stop growth of the spine, but we’ve changed that,” said Robert M. Campbell Jr., M.D., professor of pediatric orthopaedic surgery (department of orthopaedics) at the Health Science Center and director of the Thoracic Institute at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital. “There are now three reports pointing out that children having spine fusion early in life have poor pulmonary function by the time they are adults. Our work has people thinking differently about these children, and in particular, how we can treat them without damaging growth of the spine and chest and negatively impacting lung growth. No one has ever really emphasized that before.”

Thanks in part to Dr. Campbell’s expert testimony on the subject on Capitol Hill, there is now pending Senate legislation to enhance pediatric device development for the U.S. “This covers not only orthopaedics, but all devices that might be used to help children,” he said.

Dr. Campbell recently received the Arthur H. Huene Award from the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. The $25,000 award will be used for research of the Titanium Rib. The award recognizes excellence and future promise in the specialty of pediatric orthopedics.

The Titanium Rib

The Titanium Rib, invented in 1987 by Dr. Campbell, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 after a 14-year national clinical trial, and is the first truly new lung-sparing spinal therapy for children to gain FDA approval in four decades.

The Titanium Rib is saving the lives of children born with thoracic insufficiency syndrome, a disease marked by chest wall deformities, missing ribs or scoliosis that threaten normal lung capacity and growth. Drs. Campbell and his chief collaborator, surgeon Melvin Smith, M.D., coined the term thoracic insufficiency syndrome. The Titanium Rib functions as an artificial rib and can be expanded in outpatient surgeries as children grow. “It is now used in 134 hospitals worldwide, and is beginning to become a new standard of care for these children,” Dr. Campbell said.

A steady number of surgeons visit San Antonio to observe Titanium Rib implant surgery. An estimated 300 surgeons are now trained on the technique. The Titanium Rib is used in Asia, Europe, South America, North America and Australia, so far.

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