Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is a spinal condition in which the spine curves from side to side. Though the cause is unknown, it can run in families and is thought be genetic in origin. About 2% to 3% of the U.S. population has scoliosis, and most of those cases occur between the age of 10 and 16.
Fortunately, most patients don’t usually need treatment, or they can be treated with a brace. However, when patients have needed surgery, the only option was a spinal fusion. This involves placing rods and screws to straighten and stabilize the spine. It also prevents that portion of the spine from growing.
However, surgical advances, such as vertebral body tethering, are changing the way we treat these patients. At Ochsner, we are one of the leading centers nationally for this treatment.
What is vertebral body tethering?
Vertebral body tethering harnesses the power of a child’s growth and uses it to straighten the spine while also preserving the spine’s range of motion. In this procedure, the screws are placed on the convex (outer curve) side of the patient’s spine. A flexible tether, or cord, is threaded through each screw. The spine is compressed as the tether is pulled tightly. This pressure allows the vertebrae to grow more slowly on the convex side of the spine. In turn, the concave (inner curve) side of the vertebrae will continue to grow at a normal pace. As the child grows, the spine will continue to straighten.
Does my child qualify?
While vertebral body tethering has helped many children, it is not recommended for every case. One of the key factors in becoming a candidate for this procedure is bone maturity. Most of the time a child must be at least 10 years old and have not yet reached skeletal maturity. It is also important to note that this procedure works best for children between 35 degrees and 70 degrees of scoliosis. The bigger the curve, the more physical growth needed to correct it. The location of scoliosis must also be on the main thoracic or lumbar portion of the spine.
What are the advantages of vertebral body tethering?
The biggest advantage of this procedure is the ability to preserve the spine’s flexibility and mobility. Patients can take part in sports or other daily activities with no problems. Vertebral body tethering is a minimally invasive surgery. Skin incisions are small and children get back to normal very quickly.
A healthy spine with full mobility is possible. Please make an appointment with me to see if this might be the best course of action for your child’s scoliosis.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Haber to discuss vertebral body tethering please visit: https://www.ochsner.org/doctors/lawrence-l-haber