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The STAAR Center

Clinical Home for the Titanium Rib Procedure

This device was developed at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and our center has the largest cumulative clinical experience worldwide.

Learn more about our research

History of The STTAR Center 

The Center began in 1987 when Dr. Melvin D. Smith, pediatric general surgeon, consulted with Dr. Robert M. Campbell, Jr., pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, regarding a patient with severe congenital absence of ribs and scoliosis.  The infant, who was full-time ventilator dependent, was expected to die without intervention, so a chest wall prosthesis was designed of fracture pins. Postoperatively, the child's scoliosis had decreased and he was weaned from the ventilator. 

Faced with a child that was going to grow with a crude implant that could not grow, Dr. Campbell designed the first titanium rib implant as a custom prosthesis. The fracture pin prosthesis was replaced with two titanium ribs at Children's Hospital of San Antonio in San Antonio as a historical first in 1989.  
Worldwide publicity followed and referrals flocked to Children's Hospital of San Antonio for evaluation by the multi-specialty team of a pediatric orthopedist, pediatric general surgeon, and pediatric pulmonologist. After a 14-year FDA study, the titanium rib, also known as "VEPTR" (Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib) was approved by the FDA in 2004 as a Humanitarian Device Exemption and is now implanted worldwide.

VEPTR Expansion Thoracoplasty is the first new innovation in spine surgery for children in more than 40 years, and represents a physiologic corrective approach to the complex diseases of the spine and chest wall in the child.

In 2002, the Titanium Rib Project evolved to become the Titanium Rib Program with a mission to deliver the most advanced and comprehensive care to patients with thoracic insufficiency syndrome, the inability of the thorax to support normal respiration or lung growth, and related diseases with compassion and dignity in a friendly environment while leading research and training in these areas. 

This Program evolved into the Spinal & Thoracic Treatment And Research (STTAR) Center in 2008. Today, this Center is dedicated to treating patients with severe spinal deformities and the resulting complications. Research and education is a large component of the Center as well. 

In This Section:

Our Services

The STTAR Center offers testing, diagnosis and treatment for a variety of pediatric thoracic and spinal diseases. Utilizing the most advanced, state of the art diagnostic tools, our physicians can detect and diagnose thoracic diseases and determine the best course of care and treatment for the patient. 

Research Center

The Spinal and Thoracic Treatment and Research (STTAR) Center at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is committed not just to excellent patient care but also to addressing research questions related to the function of the child's spine and chest. 

The STTAR Center Team

The STTAR Center boasts a team of clinical and non-clinical experts in the field of thoracic and spinal diseases, many of whom have been with the program for more than 15 years.