Our spine team is specially trained to develop treatment plans for children and teens of all ages, and monitor patients over time so they have better results as they continue growing.
Treatment options for pediatric spine conditions and injuries may include:
Spine bracing is used to help prevent curves in the spine from getting larger as your child grows. Generally, curves less than 20 degrees don’t require treatment, since most do not worsen, but children whose curve is larger than 20 degrees are candidates for either part-time bracing (approximately 16 hours a day), or night bracing. Braces do not make curves go away, but may prevent the curve in your child’s spine from worsening.
For some children, bracing may not be the best treatment. This may be because of your child’s spine curve type, stiffness, remaining growth, other medical problems or previous surgeries. These are each considered to help our specialists determine which treatment is best for your child’s spine.
If your child, teen or young adult needs surgery, our doctors are on the forefront of spine surgery innovations. We treat more spine patients than any other program of its kind in the country. Our dedicated surgical team sets the standard for quality and safety in pediatric spine surgery. To coordinate care, we utilize clinical practice guidelines that dictate a high standard of care and help our patients get back to being kids more quickly. Our surgical team includes surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and operating room techs, each with a dedicated role to safeguarding the patient journey.
Children’s has some of the best spine surgery results in the nation. Our team continuously refines the surgical processes, including before, during and after surgery. Compared to other pediatric hospitals, our patients:
- Are in great company: Children’s performs more spine surgeries than any other pediatric hospital in the U.S.*
- Recover more quickly: Our team works diligently to help make sure patients can go home as soon as possible after surgery. In fact, Children’s has a shorter average length of stay for spine procedures than most children’s hospitals in the country.*
- Experience fewer complications: Children’s spine patients report fewer problems following surgery and fewer emergency department visits while recovering from surgery.*
What types of spine surgery are there?
The type of spine surgery recommended for your child or teen depends on several things, including their unique condition, previous treatments and whether they have a lot of growth still remaining. Larger curves (greater than 40 degrees) in younger children can be challenging to manage.
For pre-adolescent children (generally under 10 years old), surgical treatment options may include:
- Serial casting: A special technique that does not require an incision but does require anesthesia to apply a cast called EDF is used to slowly reduce the size of the curve in your child’s spine over several months. This is usually an outpatient procedure. EDF casting can result in complete correction of the curve, or at least allow for bracing of a smaller curve.
- Growing rods: Magnetically controlled rods (MAGEC rods) are mechanical lengthening rods help correct the curve and control worsening of a curved spine in children who have significant growth remaining.
- Vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib (VEPTR): This is for children with severe chest deformities and spinal curves, and helps expand and support the chest wall so that a child can breathe. Children’s is one of only a handful of pediatric hospitals in the U.S. with extended experience using this device.
For adolescent children (generally older than 10 and up to 21), surgical treatment options may include:
- Spinal fusion surgery: A spine specialist fuses, or joins, some of the bones in the spine together using spinal rods to permanently correct and prevent a spinal curve from getting worse. This procedure may be recommended for children with curves larger than 45 degrees.
- Vertebral body tethering: This evolving technique is designed to correct the curvature in a child’s spine by performing a procedure that helps direct the remaining growth of their spine without having to fuse the vertebrae.
The spine specialists at Children’s are leaders in using several types of computer-assisted spine devices. These technologies help add safety and precision to a child or teen’s surgery, and include 3D virtual navigation and spinal robotics that allow for pre-operative views of the spine so that our team can be aware of any potential challenges before surgery. The surgeon also uses a robotic arm to guide them during the procedure. In addition, Children’s was the first pediatric facility in the U.S. to clinically advance the Mazor robotic system for children and teens, and with significant experience, we continue to remain at the forefront of this advanced technology.