Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)
Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)
An International Organization Dedicated to the Education, Research and Treatment of Spinal Deformity
Our Mission is to Foster Optimal Care for All Patients with Spinal Deformities
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Congenital Scoliosis

Instrumentation and Fusion

Definitive spinal fusion is performed to stop growth of the spine and thus achieve permanent correction. This treatment becomes appropriate when the patient has demonstrated significant evidence of progression of the congenital scoliosis.

Posterior fusion provides permanent stabilization in the corrected position and is achieved by removing the joints between the vertebrae to be fused, usually all the vertebrae which are involved in the curve. Bone graft - either from the pelvis, ribs, or from the bone bank (allograft) - is placed in each joint space which has been removed. Over time (4-6 months), the graft incorporates to the vertebral bone, and the operated portion of the spine heals into a solid block of bone which cannot bend, thus eliminating further progression of the curve. Typically in a child who has reached an appropriate age for definitive fusion, instrumentation will also be placed when the fusion is performed. The instrumentation rigidly fixes the spine internally, so that the corrected position is carefully preserved while the fusion takes place over the 4-6 month period. This rigid fixation is achieved by screws, hooks, and wires ("anchors") attached to the spine, usually at multiple sites along the curve, and then rods are attached to the anchors to stiffen the entire area (Figure 1). Depending on the flexibility of the curve and any preceding treatment (such as traction), there may be additional correction of the deformity achieved by the application of the instrumentation. However, the primary goal of the surgery is to stop the curve from progressing further, and thus be the definitive stabilization - additional correction is an added benefit but not the primary concern. Often the patient does not need any further external immobilization (cast or brace) if the internal fixation device is felt to be adequate at the time of surgery.

Large progressive hemi vertebra between T-12 and L-1
Figure 7A: Large progressive hemi vertebra between T-12 and L-1
Figure 7B: Fusion with instrumentation for the congenital scoliosis
(Courtesy of Kit Song, MD)