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Care, innovation, education and research

news item News Tuesday, July 10, 2018 Tuesday, July 10, 2018 2:22 PM - Tuesday, July 10, 2018 2:22 PM

Growth guidance system helps Gavin's spine straighten

A less invasive spinal correcting procedure allows for more natural spine growth

Early-onset scoliosis is a challenging disorder. This is due not only to the inherent complexity of the spinal deformity, but also to the spine's need to grow, sometimes for more than 10 years. Noninvasive treatment, such as casting and bracing, are the mainstays for mild to moderate deformities. However, when a deformity becomes severe, surgery is typically necessary. The aim of surgical treatment is to optimize the child’s spinal alignment, minimize the number of anesthetics and surgical procedures, and maximize the vertical growth of the spine. The traditional treatment for severe deformities has been growing rods. When compared to growing rods, however, a newer spine-correcting procedure has proven to need fewer surgeries with equivalent outcomes for patients with progressive early onset scoliosis.

The procedure features a spinal growth guidance system, which corrects the spinal deformity and simultaneously permits the natural growth of the spine. Spinal rods are inserted along the spine with screws on each end that can slide and grow with the child: a track-and-trolley system. Compared to traditional growing rods, this procedure reduces the number of future spinal procedures and surgical site infections.

“We have found that the growth guidance system gives patients the same or even better results than traditional growing rods would offer,” said Chief of Staff Scott Luhmann, M.D.. “It can better accommodate the growth of the child.”

Dr. Luhmann recently published the results of a study that compares scoliosis correcting procedures at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis. Over a period of six years, the growth guidance system was shown to have fewer invasive surgeries per patient than traditional growing rods or magnetically controlled growing rods. The overall treatment costs were lower as well.

For 12-year-old Gavin, the growth guidance system helped stabilize his spine, and his curvature went from 52 to 17 degrees. A patient since he was 18 months old, Gavin had already been through a series of casts and braces that were not providing the stability he needed to straighten his curve.

Gavin was an ideal candidate for the growth guidance system, which was implanted when he was 7 years old. Most patients who have this procedure are less than 10. This past year, Gavin underwent a definitive spinal fusion since he was near the end of this spinal growth. “Had it not been for the rods, I don’t know if Gavin would have received such a good correction with the fusion surgery,” said Gavin’s mom, Amy. “Anybody who has bone issues – we always recommend Shriners [Hospitals]. It’s the first thing we tell people. We’re happy with the results we received and the Shriners staff really put us at ease.”