Spine Surgery

Spinal conditions such as scoliosis (curving of the spine), kyphosis (increasing roundback of the spine), spondylolysis (stress fracture of the spine), and spondylolisthesis (movement of one part of the spine on another part) may affect children during their early or late childhood years. The majority of spinal disorders do not require bracing or surgery although regular checkups are needed to ensure that the condition does not worsen. Emory surgeons may use a combination of bracing and spinal casting to prevent your child from needing spinal surgery. When your child's physician feels that non-operative management is no longer appropriate, he may recommend a spinal fusion. While the specifics of the procedure will be discussed by your child's doctor, spinal fusion most commonly involves the placement of screws, hooks, and rods in the spine in order to prevent the deformity from worsening and perhaps even improve the appearance. Emory pediatric orthopedic surgeons have a great deal of experience treating children with all types of spinal conditions, from mild to the most severe.

An important goal of surgery is to allow the spine and chest to grow as much as possible. There are several surgical options.

  • Spinal fusion for scoliosis
    The abnormal curved vertebrae are fused together so that they heal into a single, solid bone. This will stop growth completely in the abnormal segment of the spine and prevent the curve from getting worse.
  • Hemivertebra removal
    A single hemivertebra can be surgically removed. This procedure will only fuse two to three vertebrae together.
  • Growing rod
    Growing rods do not actually grow but can be lengthened with minor surgery that is repeated every 6 to 8 months. The goal of a growing rod is to allow continued growth while correcting the curve. One or two rods are attached to the spine above and below the curve. Every 6 to 8 months, the child returns to the doctor and the rod is lengthened to keep up with the child's growth. When the child is full grown, the rod(s) are replaced and a spinal fusion is performed.
  • Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR)
    VEPTR is used for the management of severe scoliosis in young patients. These techniques allow for continued growth of the spine in younger children to allow normal development and function.

Once they are healed, children are allowed to participate in most of the activities that they had previously participated in.

Pediatric Orthopedics