VEPTR - Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib
The VEPTR (Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib) device is used to treat pediatric patients with scoliosis or thoracic insufficiency syndrome (TIS), a congenital condition in which severe deformities of the chest, spine and ribs prevent normal lung development.
In the VEPTR procedure, surgeons implant an expandable metal rod that's curved to fit the back of the chest and spine, using hooks located at both ends of the device.
Unlike more standard surgeries to treat congenital scoliosis, the VEPTR device is designed to give the rib cage room to grow in children who suffer from chest wall and/or spine defects. While helping to straighten the spine, the VEPTR device separates the ribs to allow lungs to develop and fill with enough air so the child is better able to breathe.
Room to Grow
The length of the device can be adjusted as the patient grows.
With more traditional spinal fusion surgery, the non-expanding metal rods and screws stop the spine from getting worse - but they also essentially stop the spine from growing. So the VEPTR device can be very beneficial to young children over six months of age, who still need a lot of remaining spine growth.
And without some sort of corrective surgery, children with severe scoliosis and related conditions could develop serious and potentially fatal breathing problems due to inhibited lung growth.
First in the State
With a successful VEPTR surgery on a two-year-old child on Aug. 25, 2005, UW Children's Hospital was the first center in Wisconsin to offer the VEPTR procedure. Only a handful of medical centers in the country implant the device.
Most VEPTR patients will eventually need spinal fusion surgery as a more definitive correction of their scoliosis. But in the shorter term, as the children continue to develop, the VEPTR device allows for sufficient growth of their spine and lungs.
History of the Device
VEPTR was developed in 1987 by Drs. Robert Campbell and Melvin Smith of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children's Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, when they were approached by a family with a child missing ribs on one side of the thorax. Drs. Campbell and Smith implanted the first VEPTR-like device to stabilize and enlarge the thorax of this patient. Following the surgery, the patient thrived.
Prior to the development of the UW VEPTR team, only seven centers in the United States were performing this procedure. The VEPTR device is also being used clinically in Europe, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand.
A Patient's Story