Generally, for pediatric spinal deformities, and issues like scoliosis that create an abnormal curvature of the spine, surgery is needed. Surgical correction should always be thought of as a last resort when it comes to spinal issues, as it is often dangerous and can cause a number of side effects.
For those patients who fail to see any results using non-surgical treatments, surgery becomes vital. When it comes to spinal surgery, especially in children there are a few options.
Spinal Fusion is a surgical procedure in which the vertebrae are realigned and on top of one another, in an attempt to help alleviate the spinal curve in the patient. Once the vertebrae are realigned they are fused together creating one solid spinal column bone. This can greatly reduce the spinal curve in a patient, however, there is a major drawback to spinal fusion, as it creates a stiff solid spinal column.
Once the vertebrae are fused into one solid bone, they can no longer grow independently. Therefore, this causes the child’s growth cycle to end prematurely, keeping him or her from reaching their mature size/height. Leaving them to remain the same size for the remainder of their life. For this reason, spinal fusion is often only performed on those patients who have completed their growth cycle and reached their mature height.
Spinal Instrumentation has a few applications in terms of spinal surgery. Spinal instrumentation can be performed in two specific ways. After spinal fusion surgery instruments such as growing rods, cables, plates, and screws help doctors secure the newly fused spinal vertebrae. Using these instruments, we are able to hold the vertebrae together and allow them to properly fuse together.
The one major drawback of Spinal Fusion surgery is that it completely fuses the vertebrae along the spine, and therefore stops the patient from growing. This means that spinal fusion surgery is mainly for older children, who have completed their growth phase. For those children in need of spinal surgery, having yet to complete their growth, the best option is to perform surgery using Spinal Instruments such as growing rods.
For patients that are still within their growth cycle, using growing rods or other spinal instruments may be the best option. Using growing rods on their own allow patients to continue growing and will slowly straighten out the patient’s spine with time. For most patients the use of spinal instruments on their own allow them to better their spinal curve while putting off the need for spinal fusion surgery and the cessation of their growth plates. Though most of these patients will eventually need spinal fusion surgery.