Treatment for Scoliosis in Children

Specialists at University Hospitals Offer Innovative Treatments for Children and Adolescents with Idiopathic Scoliosis

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital offers a variety of advanced surgical and non-surgical options to treat scoliosis in children and adolescents. Depending on the type of scoliosis, the progression of the spinal curvature, and the age of the patient, our team can evaluate each individual child and develop a treatment plan specific to that child’s needs.

Recommended pediatric scoliosis treatments may include:

Braces

A brace is used to prevent moderate curves (25-40 degrees) from getting worse until your child is finished growing. It is every effective but not always successful in preventing the curve from getting worse. Braces will not “cure” or correct the curve.

Some braces are worn only at night for eight to 10 hours. Other braces are worn approximately 22 hours a day. The type of brace recommended and the amount of time spent in the brace will depend on what your doctor feels is best for your child. Braces are worn until the child is fully grown. They are worn under the clothes and participation in activities is not restricted.

Growing Rods

Growing rods are effective for very young children with severe spinal deformity. This technique is successful because it allows the spine and lungs to continue growing as the child grows. Unlike traditional casting and halo traction, growing rods enable pediatric patients to integrate easily into school and their social environment.

The procedure involves the insertion of one or two rods under the back muscles and attaching them above and below the spine’s curve. They are adjusted about every nine months to enable growth, although newer systems grow with the child and do not require frequent returns to the operating room. Our highly-trained orthopedic surgery team offers two of these new and unique surgical procedures which include:

  • The Shilla™ Growth Guidance System: This system uses a special non-locking screw at the top and bottom of the growing rod, which allows the rod to slide through the screw heads as the child’s spine grows, while still providing correction of the spinal deformity.
  • MAGEC™ Growing Rod: This uses a magnetic device inside the growing rod, which can be expanded painlessly and noninvasively via an external remote control.

The Shilla and MAGEC devices were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 and are both being used by the pediatric scoliosis experts at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

Scoliosis Surgery

If the scoliosis curve is greater than 45 or 50 degrees and is disrupting everyday life, spinal fusion surgery may be a viable scoliosis treatment option. The most common surgical procedure for scoliosis is a minimally invasive spinal fusion.

In the event our pediatric spine surgeons at UH determine a spinal fusion is appropriate, screws, rods and bone grafts will be used to fuse the vertebrae together. Following the procedure, the patient will enjoy reduced pain, increased mobility and less reliance on pain medications.

Our surgeons also offer spinal osteotomy procedures as part of a spinal fusion to increase the spine’s flexibility. UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is one of a limited number of specialized centers in Ohio that performs this procedure regularly in children.

Firefly® Technology Decreases Risk

Firefly® Technology uses specialized software to convert CT images into an exact, three dimensional computer image of the patient’s spine. 3-D printing technology then converts the image into an actual model of the spine that the surgeon can hold and study from all angles, enabling them to plan and practice their surgical approach preoperatively.

Spine surgery often requires the placement of screws to correct and maintain the position of the vertebrae. As part of the preoperative planning, Firefly® also provides 3-D printed guides so that during surgery, the surgeon can insert these screws through preselected pathways. Knowing exactly where to insert the screws eliminates the need for the use of image-guided navigation and greatly reduces radiation exposure to the patient. Using Firefly® also decreases the risk of spinal cord, nerve and tissue damage. The pediatric spine specialists at UH Rainbow were the first in Northeast Ohio to use Firefly® Technology.

VATS Procedure Speeds Healing

UH orthopedic surgeons are often able to use a minimally invasive procedure known as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) to treat spinal deformities. UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is the only center in Northeast Ohio that offers VATS for patients with a spinal deformity. The resulting benefits of the technique include less pain and faster healing.

What to Expect During Pediatric Scoliosis Surgery

The following links provide more information and answers to frequently asked questions related to scoliosis surgery.

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