New Scoliosis Surgery Bright  Hope: Keeps Patients Agile and Active

A surprising discovery

An evaluation with local doctors found a 45-degree spinal curve. Camden’s condition was classified as severe scoliosis. She was fitted for a brace, but due to the severity of her condition, her doctors were concerned it wouldn’t be enough to correct the problem.”I couldn’t imagine my daughter’s life with two steel rods in her back. She was only 13.” – Teresa ChristophersonThe only other alternative they could offer was spinal fusion scoliosis surgery. This procedure corrects the curve of the spine by connecting two or more of the spinal vertebrae. Metal screws and rods typically are used to hold the vertebrae together, so they can heal into one solid unit.

A new possibility

When the Christophersons met with Dr. Larson at Mayo Clinic, they discussed a variety of possibilities, including the VBT procedure.The  scoliosis surgery involves inserting screws into the vertebrae affected by scoliosis. The surgeon attaches a cord to each of the screws and then pulls and secures the cord, so the vertebrae are cinched together on one side and splayed open on the other, correcting the curve. This aligns the spine and gives the vertebrae space to grow in properly.Designed to treat moderate to severe scoliosis, vertebral body tethering typically is recommended for adolescents during puberty who are still growing. Dr. Larson suggested Camden would be a good candidate. Because this is a new procedure that hasn’t been in use long, though, Teresa wasn’t ready to commit to it without doing some additional research.

A hopeful way forward

Camden returned to Mayo Clinic and had vertebral body tethering surgery in June 2015. Dr. Larson was joined in the operating room by thoracic surgeon Stephen Cassivi, M.D., and pediatric orthopedic surgeon Todd Milbrandt, M.D. Together, the team conducted the procedure through five small incisions on Camden’s right side. Guided by images from a tiny camera inserted through her back and using a technique called intraoperative low-dose CT computer navigation, the surgeons inserted the screws and cord into Camden’s spine without needing a large incision or causing any significant muscle damage.”Six months after scoliosis surgery, she can do whatever she wants,” says Teresa. “Her back is very straight. She has total flexibility. She can roll into a ball and completely curve her back. She can do all her sports again.

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