Historic Spinal Surgery for Teen in Arizona

Finishing book reports and other homework may seem daunting to most 14-year-old boys. But when Matthew Baremore woke up and finished his assignments on Tuesday morning, the school work was cake compared to the medical history he made.

Matthew has scoliosis, and using a concentrated cocktail of his own stem cells and those donated from bone, he became the first in the state to undergo spinal fusion surgery.

New bone growth is facilitated by the stem cell technology and healing is also accelerated. The process of harvesting a piece of Matthews bone, which involves a second procedure, is also avoided with this method.

“Right now he has a fairly large bump on his back (and) his rib cage is being forced out of position,” Matthew’s mother, Becky, said as she ran her hand along his back.

With the potential to eventually interfere with Matthews breathing, the 50 percent curvature would have likely worsened if left untreated. That would result in a serious modification in his life, one that involves a passion for playing basketball.

Bone marrow was harvested from the teen’s pelvic bones by Dr. Mark Flood, a pediatric spine surgeon, at Banner Desert Children’s Hospital. The procedure took approximately four hours. Using centrifuge technology patented by an Austin, Texas firm, stem cells were extracted from the marrow.

Flood straightened and bolstered Matthew’s spine with a series of rods and pins _ a typical surgical treatment for severe scoliosis.

Crushed bone marrow from the hospital bone bank was combined with Matthew’s own stem cells which had been concentrated to 10 times the levels normal with traditional methods.

Between the rods, the puttylike mixture was injected into the upper-middle section of Matthew’s spine. The spine will be protected against further curvature with the mixture growing into bone in the injected location.

“What’s revolutionary is the use of the concentrated stem cells,” Flood said before the surgery. “We can avoid the pain of taking bone, and increase fusion.”

There is no cure for Scoliosis. The condition affects about two to three percent of the population and results in the spine curving in an “S” shape from side to side.

Curvatures of 25 to 40 degrees in adults and children may require a back brace, however, most individuals require no treatment. If the curve is more severe or the brace fails to correct the problem, surgery is recommended.

Until now, the surgical option usually required a bone graft, a second surgery and longer recovery.

Often diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 14, scoliosis can develop gradually. As Matthew hit puberty, he quickly grew to 6-foot-1, marking a fast development in his scoliosis. During a physical exam last spring, his condition was first noted.

Matthew was looking forward to getting the procedure over with on Tuesday. The eighth-grader and his twin brother Jordan, may have been a bit camera shy as well, with a media entourage following them around in the hospital.

Matthew’s strong bones made the procedure a bit more challenging, but Flood said that the surgery was a success.

“Everything went fine. Now it’s up to him to get through these next few days,” he said.

Matthew will return to school at Villa Montessori in Phoenix after a four to five day recovery stay in the hospital. He must wait at least one year before he can play basketball again, but rehabilitation therapy will start in about six weeks to improve strength and flexibility in his muscles.

“He’ll bounce back quickly,” Flood said. “That’s how kids are.”

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