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Device Corrects Face Deformity

Four-year old Danielle Kulowitch came into the world looking different than other children. She was born with Apert's syndrome, a craniofacial deformity caused when the skull is fused together.

Bulging eyes, a projected face, and webbed hands and feet are common in those with Apert's.

Danielle recently became one of the first children to get implanted with a new device that will change the shape of her face. The groundbreaking technology, called a modular internal distraction system, was invented by plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Cohen of the Children's Hospital in San Diego, reports Correspondent Sandra Maas of CBS Affiliate KFMB-TV.

"As startling and frightening as these kids look to society, inside is a normal brain and normal kid and they feel the effects of being different," says Dr. Cohen. "By stabilizing a device on two sides of a bony cut and then gradually moving those parts apart, in the middle new bone forms."

A model of a skull with the modular internal distraction system. (CBS)

A small device is implanted into the face along with titanium plates. A cable remains exposed just behind the ear. A key is used to turn the cable twice a day for two weeks. The skull is turned apart, allowing new bone to grow in the gaps, slowly reshaping the head and face.

"It's akin to bubble gum, and as you stretch it, you get more out of it," says Dr. Cohen.

Two weeks after surgery, Danielle is already showing signs of improvement.

"Now that she's home, she's back to her normal routine, it kind of makes us reassured that things are going to get better," says Danielle's mother.

"I would anticipate a movement [in her face] in the next couple of weeks, and she'll be virtually completely corrected," says Dr. Cohen.

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