Spinal fusion and growing rods

Spine fusion surgery

A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that joins or fuses some of the bones of the spine. These backbones are called vertebra. Fusing the bones helps to prevent the curve from getting worse. It may not completely correct the curve.

In general, there are 3 ways to do spinal fusions.

  1. Anterior—done on the front part of the spine through an incision in your child’s side.
  2. Posterior—done on the back of the spine through an incision in your child’s back. This is the most common.
  3. Anterior-Posterior—done on the front and back part of the spine through 2 incisions.

All 3 fusion methods use pieces of bone, metal rods, and screws to fuse the backbones together.

  • The metal rods and screws help to keep the bones in the right place and hold them straight.
  • The bone graft acts as a bridge, and grows into the spaces between the backbones. This fuses them together.

The bone graft can come from either:

  • A piece of bone from your child’s own hip area. This is called an autograft. Your child will have another incision over his hip area. It should not affect your child being able to walk or run.
  • A bone bank from someone who donated their bone—this is called an allograft.

Your surgeon will talk with you about the best choice for your child.

Growing Rods

Growing rods allow for continued, controlled growth of the spine. They may be used to temporarily help with curve correction and control progression without fusion.

Metal rods are attached to the spine and lengthened during a simple outpatient surgical procedure. This is done through the back of the spine, under general anesthesia. The rods attach to the spine at the top and bottom of the curve with hooks or screws. The patient returns about every six months to have the rods surgically lengthened to keep up with their spine's growth. Some children may need to wear a brace to protect the instrumentation. Once the child is older and the spine has grown, the doctor will remove the rods and perform a spinal fusion.

Your child’s doctor will discuss the best treatment options with you.