Growing rods may be effective form of spine surgery for scoliosis

Aug 1 2011
In extreme cases, scoliosis - just like degenerative disc disease and other spinal problems - may be treated with invasive procedures like spinal fusion. Scoliosis and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) can have particular requirements, especially with young patients.

Scoliosis can be particularly complicated in young people, since a still-growing spine may straighten out of a problematic curve or become even more sharply curved, and an intervention can worsen scoliosis.

A group of researchers recently published a study in the journal Spine after examining 15 patients who had SMA and scoliosis, Becker's Orthopedic, Spine and Pain Management Review reports. They focused on the effectiveness of growing rods, which can be inserted to straighten the spine.

The patients were found to have improved curve angles and more space available for lung activity. According to the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation, difficulty breathing is the most common cause of illness in SMA patients and the leading cause of death for children with type I or II SMA.

At the same time, the study found that growing rods did not seem to prevent hip or rib collapse in individuals with SMA. Those with infantile or juvenile idiopathic scoliosis did not experience continued rib collapse after treatment, and had shorter hospital stays.

Scoliosis affects 3 to 5 out of 1,000 children to a degree that requires treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health. Idiopathic scoliosis accounts for most cases and has no known cause, but the condition can result from muscular weakness or a congenital defect.

It can cause low back pain, fatigue and a visually noticeable curve in the spine. Mild cases are typically only observed, but more significant scoliosis is sometimes treated with a brace to prevent further curving. Other methods of treatment are being researched.

Scoliosis and SMA treatments like growing rods can cause complications. The researchers for this study found that the patients treated for infantile and juvenile idiopathic scoliosis tended to have more complications than the SMA patients.