Spine, skull seperated: microneedle miracle

Published: January 26, 2006 | 3372nd good news item since 2003

13 year-old Ricky Barker’s skull and spine were separated when a car hit him. “All I remember is riding on my bike. Next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. My nurse told me I had been hit by a car,” says Ricky. He had a broken neck and could not move his left arm.

Kim Manwaring, M.D., from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital used a needle he invented to help reattach Ricky’s spine to his skull.

Dr. Manwaring says, “Ricky’s adaptation is an excellent demonstration of the value of the microneedle. Here is a child whose spine attachments had been severed, and there had been extensive bleeding and tearing and bruising in the deep neck muscles and tendons” He goes on to say, “If we had done this surgery with a cold blade, the field would have been full of blood, and it would have been a much slower process. If we’d used a conventional blade, we’d been using much more heat, it would be more sparky and dangerous.”

Because of the microneedle, Ricky was able to recover faster and walk out of the hospital.


The microneedle was invented by Dr. Kim Manwaring.

The needle is a dissecting tool that can be used in several types of surgeries to reduce deep tissue scarring, which allows for more precise surgery and faster healing. The high-frequency current tool is smaller than a ballpoint pen and uses electrical currents to cut through tissue, skin and muscle.

Its called electro-surgery because instead of a cold blade with a sharp edge, the electricity itself does the cutting. In the past, broader-tipped, cruder instruments were developed using more electricity and leaving deep tissue scarring. When the electrode is made into an extremely sharp tip, Dr. Manwaring says surgeons need far less electricity to get the tissue dissection effect, and doctors need far less heat to seal a blood vessel.

The heating process causes less injury, less scarring, more rapid healing, and a better cosmetic result.


The microneedle is ideal when there is a need to dissect around nerves. There is minimal blood loss. The microneedle is brought to a very fine tip. The electricity escapes from that tiny tip, in a very dense path, and therefore, doctors use a lot less electricity. The current from the microneedle will part tissue, but the blade isn’t even touching the tissue. The electricity itself is parting it. Dr. Manwaring says, “It’s almost non-touch surgery.

Published in Kids & Teens, Miracles, Science & Technology
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