Children may require spine surgery for various conditions such as abnormal spine curvature, deformities, inflammatory or infectious diseases, tumors, vascular malformations, and trauma. Some of these conditions are congenital while others may develop during early or late childhood. Certain conditions may be corrected by non-surgical treatment such as bracing and casting, but if they persist or become worse, surgery is often recommended.
Your doctor will review your child’s history and perform a careful evaluation with detailed imaging studies. If surgery is necessary, the kind of surgery and timing for surgery is discussed. The risks of the procedure are also made clear.
The goals of surgery are to relieve pain and restore stability and function. One common surgery performed is spinal fusion. This involves the joining of one or more vertebrae to form a single bone. It adds stability to the spine and can prevent a deformity from worsening. Fusion is performed with the help of bone graft, screws, rods and plates.
One of the important goals of pediatric spinal surgery is to make allowance for continued growth of the spine and chest. A drawback of the spinal fusion procedure is that it stops growth at the site. Your doctor may recommend the use of growing rods to straighten a child’s spine without hindering growth. These are placed above and below an area of curvature and adjusted for length in a periodic manner according to the growth of the child. Once growth is complete, the rods are removed and fusion is performed. Another surgical technique for severe scoliosis (lateral curvature) in young children includes the use of the vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib (VEPTR).
Following spine surgery, your child’s doctor will prescribe medication for pain which is usually experienced for a few days. A spinal brace may be worn for the first few weeks to provide support. Post-surgical instructions and activity limitations are discussed. A period of rehabilitation is recommended to improve strength and movement.