Denver, Colo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Up to nine million people are living with scoliosis—a condition where the spine curves sideways, causing pain and deformities. Traditionally, kids are put in back braces to try to straighten things out. If that doesn’t work, fusion surgery is the next step. But, that has its limitations. Now, a new, less invasive treatment option is giving kids an easier way to ease their pain.
“We like to go to Target and spend money.“ says Ruby Levitt.
That’s not all these two sisters have in common—they both have scoliosis. So does their mother and grandmother.
Ire Levitt says, “It’s really uncomfortable. I can feel it all the time.”
Ruby says, “I was in a lot of pain.”
The difference between the two: Ire has not had surgery, but little sis Ruby tried something new to straighten her spine—vertebral body tethering or VBT.
Jaren Riley, MD, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children explains, “It allows us to approach the spine differently in a way where we don’t have to disrupt quite as many muscles and underlying anatomy. It also allows us to maintain the flexibility of the spine.”
Through four small incisions pediatric orthopedic surgeon Jaren Riley at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children used a rope, similar to nylon, to tether the bones of the spine together.
Doctor Riley says, “With the rope, we can tighten the rope, which allows us to straighten the curve to a certain degree. And so, the curve will gradually get straighter and straighter.”
Ruby had a 52 degree curve in her spine before surgery.
After VBT, it was 18. She’s pain free and an inch taller!
Ruby says, “I was really excited about it, and I, like, felt normal for once.”
Now big sis Ire is hoping to follow in her footsteps and have her surgery this summer.
Doctor Riley says spinal fusion used to be the only option, and that can greatly inhibit movement and flexibility. Right now, VBT is only approved for kids who are still growing, but Doctor Riley is working hand-in-hand with insurance companies and the FDA to broaden those restrictions.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer, Editor.
STRAIGHTEN UP! BREAKTHROUGH SPINE TREATMENT FOR
BACKGROUND: Scoliosis is a medical condition that causes the spine to curve sideways, resulting in an S or C shape instead of a straight line. The condition commonly develops in children during growth spurts just before puberty. Scoliosis severity can vary widely, from mild cases that may not cause any noticeable symptoms or require treatment, to severe cases that can cause significant pain and impair daily activities. Some people with scoliosis may also experience breathing difficulties or reduced lung function. The diagnosis typically involves a physical exam, medical history review, and imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. Treatment options depend on the severity of the condition, ranging from observation and monitoring in mild cases to bracing or surgery in more severe cases.
SCOLIOSIS SYMPTOMS: Scoliosis can cause a range of symptoms, including uneven shoulders or hips. This is the most common symptom which may be visibly tilted or appear uneven when looking in the mirror. In more severe cases, a visible curve may be noticeable in the spine, particularly when bending forward. The curve may resemble an S or a C shape and may be more pronounced when viewed from certain angles. Some people with scoliosis may experience back pain, particularly in more severe cases where the curve places additional pressure on the spine and surrounding muscles. It can also cause breathing difficulties or reduced lung function, especially if the curve affects the chest and lungs. In severe cases, scoliosis can limit mobility or flexibility, making it difficult to perform daily activities or participate in sports or exercise. Not everyone with scoliosis will experience symptoms, particularly in mild cases. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the condition from getting worse and improve outcomes for affected individuals.
FUTURE PROMISE FOR SCOLIOSIS: Physicians and scientists are developing new technologies that may ultimately reduce the need for surgery in people with scoliosis and other spine conditions. They are using gene therapy to develop a new non-surgical spinal fusion technique that may replace spinal fusion surgery with an injection of genes to the spinal disc, causing the disc tissue to turn into bone. In certain situations, this might be able to eliminate surgery altogether. There has also been dramatic development in identifying gene mutations that correlate with scoliosis which helps physicians to provide appropriate preventive care. As these genetic tests improve, the ability to intervene with non-operative treatments early on will improve as well. “It would be great value to have the ability to intervene early and prevent the problems that lead to the need for surgery,” says Matthew E. Cunningham, MD, PhD, orthopedic surgeon at the Spine Care Institute at Hospital for Special Surgery New York.
* For More Information, Contact: Stephanie Sullivan
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