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Most operations that address spinal deformity in the young child work by stopping growth. This may have unfavorable effects on growth of the thorax, lung development, and size of the trunk. The theory of the growing rod operation is to allow for continued controlled growth of the spine. This is done through the back of the spine. In general, the curve is spanned by one or two rods under the skin to avoid damaging the growth tissues of the spine. The rods are then attached to the spine above and below the curve with hooks or screws. The curve can usually be corrected by fifty percent at the time of the first operation (Figure 1)
. The child then returns every six months to have the rods "lengthened" approximately one centimeter to keep up with the child's growth. This is usually an outpatient procedure performed through a small incision. Most children will have to wear a brace to protect the instrumentation. When the child becomes older and the spine has grown, the doctor will remove the instrumentation and perform a formal spinal fusion operation. In the past, this procedure had a very high complication rate, most of which were related to the instrumentation (hook dislodgement, rod breakage). Newer techniques are more promising but treatment with growing rods remains a long, difficult therapy for the child.
|Figure 1B: Severe right thoracic juvenile scoliosis.
||Figure 1B: Two telescoping growth rods have been inserted and will be relengthened every six months to maintain the correction.