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Best Life: Spinal tethering treat scoliosis

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 9:47 AM CDT
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NEW YORK, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than 100,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with scoliosis every year. Some need bracing to straighten the curvature of the spine. For more severe cases, doctors perform surgery to fuse the spine, which stops the progression and pain but limits mobility. Now a new procedure may allow young athletes to continue to compete.

Fifteen-year-old Alivia McCord lives to dance, but this nationally ranked competitor almost had to give it all up.

“I was in my dance costume, and my mom noticed that I was crooked. My hips were crooked,” McCord told Ivanhoe.

Doctors diagnosed McCord with scoliosis and recommended immediate surgery to fuse her back, which would have limited her bending or twisting. Instead, the McCord’s decided to try a non-invasive back brace, but

“When we did the out of brace x-ray, they took her out of her brace for like four days, her curve went right back,” Donna McCord, Alivia’s mom, shared.

That’s when the McCord’s sought out scoliosis specialist, Dr. Barron Lonner. Dr. Lonner recommended a new procedure called vertebral body tethering or VBT.

“So, the benefit of tethering is we don’t permanently alter the spine and we maintain flexibility and some growth for the patients,” said Lonner, the chief of minimally invasive scoliosis surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Instead of opening the back, surgeons access a patient’s spine through tiny holes in their side.

“What we do is place screws into the vertebral bodies, which are the building blocks of the spine,” said Lonner.

Then surgeons maneuver a flexible cord into the back and anchor it to the screws. The tethering corrects the curvature, but still allows patients almost full movement. Six weeks after surgery, Alivia was back to training and performing.

“I was so happy that I was just back on my dance floor, and I could just dance again,” said McCord.

Surgeons have been performing VBT in clinical trials for about ten years, but the procedure was approved by the FDA in 2019. The most common patient for this procedure is someone who is age ten or older and is still growing. Doctors say that growth allows them to get more correction over time. However, some doctors also consider patients, like Alivia, who wouldn’t do well with a traditional fusion.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.

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