Straighten up: breakthrough spine treatment for scoliosis sisters
DENVER, Co. (WALB) - Up to nine million people are living with scoliosis—a condition where the spine curves sideways, causing pain and deformities.
Traditionally, kids are put in back braces to try to straighten things out. If that doesn’t work, fusion surgery is the next step. But, that has its limitations. Now, a new, less invasive treatment option is giving kids an easier way to ease their pain.
“We like to go to Target and spend money,” Ruby Levitt said.
That’s not all these two sisters have in common—they both have scoliosis. So does their mother and grandmother.
“It’s really uncomfortable. I can feel it all the time,” Ire Levitt said.
“I was in a lot of pain,” Ruby said.
The difference between the two: Ire has not had surgery, but little sis Ruby tried something new to straighten her spine — vertebral body tethering (VBT).
“It allows us to approach the spine differently in a way where we don’t have to disrupt quite as many muscles and underlying anatomy. It also allows us to maintain the flexibility of the spine,” Jaren Riley, MD, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children explained.
Through four small incisions, Riley used a rope, similar to nylon, to tether the bones of the spine together.
“With the rope, we can tighten the rope, which allows us to straighten the curve to a certain degree. And so, the curve will gradually get straighter and straighter,” Riley said.
Ruby had a 52-degree curve in her spine before surgery.
After VBT, it was 18. She’s pain free and an inch taller.
“I was really excited about it, and I, like, felt normal for once,” Ruby said.
Now big sis Ire is hoping to follow in her footsteps and have her surgery this summer.
Riley says spinal fusion used to be the only option, and that can greatly inhibit movement and flexibility. Right now, VBT is only approved for kids who are still growing, but Riley is working hand-in-hand with insurance companies and the FDA to broaden those restrictions.
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