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New Device Offers Hope to Children With Chest, Spinal Deformities

a condition in which the thorax is unable to support normal respiration or lung growth, VEPTR can be implanted in children as young as three to six months old, or even immediately following birth if the child is experiencing severe breathing problems, says Farley.

As the patient grows, the device is expanded or replaced about every six months. With each expansion, the device is lengthened about a centimeter. Once the spine fuses, typically between the ages of 10 and 12, the VEPTR is removed and the child may then have surgery to correct any spinal problems. The use of the device prior to this surgery actually makes the procedure more “straight forward,” say Farley.

About nine months ago, Ariana underwent surgery to implant the VEPTR device. The procedure kept her in the hospital for about a week and in intensive care at Mott for a few days.

Since then, Ariana has had the device lengthened, and Farley is very pleased with her progress.

“We have increased the size of Ariana’s chest cavity, and she’s able to run and play, and her scoliosis has stabilized,” says Farley, associate professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the U-M Medical School. “Our hope is that the VEPTR will allow her spine to grow and stay as straight as possible, and that her chest cavity will continue to grow to allow for normal lung function.”

Ariana’s mother also is optimistic about the future of her daughter’s health and development.

“She’s happy and very playful with her twin sister. I think Ariana can do anything now. I have no doubt in her whatsoever,” says Pompa. “She has a lot of surgeries to face, and I think she’s going to go heads up with all of them, and that she’s going to do just wonderful.”

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