Scoliosis and Spine Disorders Treatments

Specialists at the Children’s Spine Center have a world-class reputation for treating complex and common pediatric spine problems. Our experience caring for a large number of children places our spine center first on the West Coast and third in the country for pediatric spinal care.

Exceptional Surgical Results at the Children’s Spine Center

Your child benefits from our orthopaedic surgeons’ experience performing more than 300 spine surgeries every year. We’re among a select few pediatric medical centers who treat this many children for spine problems. We offer advanced surgical procedures with outstanding results.

We’re proud of these marks:

  • Consistently high patient satisfaction ratings
  • Effective pain management using non-narcotic treatments when possible
  • Extremely low (less than 2 percent) surgical complication and reoperation rate
  • Fast return to physical activities, often within three months
  • Hospital stays of three days or fewer (compared to five days nationally)
  • Low infection rate (fewer than one in 100 patients)
  • Reduced time in the operating room
  • Three times less need for blood transfusions during surgeries

Does Your Child Need Spine Surgery?

The best treatment for a back problem depends on your child’s unique situation. Our orthopaedic doctors tap the expertise of multiple specialists to develop a customized treatment plan. We turn to surgery when nonsurgical solutions can’t get the needed results. Our #1 goal is to treat the problem and get your child on the move again.

Nonsurgical Spine Treatments

We specialize in these and other nonsurgical treatments:

Observational monitoring

Children with mild spine curvatures may need X-rays every six to 12 months to monitor changes. X-rays help your child’s doctor determine when to start treatment. To protect your child from high levels of radiation exposure, we use a low-dose 3D X-ray imaging system called EOS, that uses up to 95% less radiation than some imaging tests.

Schroth Method

The Schroth Method is a group of exercises that may keep scoliosis (S- or C-shaped spine curvatures) from worsening. The therapy also eases pain and improves breathing. Our Schroth-trained physical therapists tailor exercises for your child’s distinct body shape. You and your child learn how to do the exercises at home.

The Schroth Method helps spine alignment through:

  • Rotational angular breathing: A curved spine puts pressure on the lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe. Exercises help your child elongate and move the spine and ribcage to a position that aids breathing.
  • Posture awareness: Your child learns to be mindful of posture, including pelvic positioning.
  • Muscle strengthening: Core strengthening exercises engage muscles to help your child maintain proper posture and positioning.

Back braces

Some children with scoliosis or kyphosis (a forward rounding of the spine) wear back braces to keep the curvature from getting worse and straighten the spine. For children who have back surgery or spinal injuries, braces offer support during recovery. For your convenience, we have representatives from brace companies on-site. These experts customize and adjust braces to fit your child’s growing body.

We offer the latest bracing devices, including ones that are still in development in clinical trials. Our team is working to develop a more flexible, comfortable back brace for children. The brace has built-in technology that allows doctors to remotely track usage and progress. Based on this information, your child’s doctor can provide instructions for you to adjust the brace at home.

Surgical Spine Treatments

If your child needs spinal surgery, we’re with you through every step of the process. We offer classes to ensure everyone knows what to expect at the time of surgery and afterwards. Your child recovers in a dedicated spine unit with specialized nurses who have experience helping children with spine problems.

There are many types and ways to perform spine surgeries. We choose the best option based on your child’s specific needs. Surgical options include:

Spinal fusions

Spinal fusions are the most common treatment for adolescents who have scoliosis or severe kyphosis. Your child’s surgeon uses metal rods, screws and hooks to straighten a spine curvature.

A spinal fusion can also stabilize the spine after a fracture or misaligned vertebra (spondylosis and spondylolisthesis). This procedure may use bone grafts (small pieces of bone donated to a bone bank) instead of metal rods. Your child’s surgeon places these bone segments around the injured vertebrae. The spine heals around the bone grafts into a solid bone.

Magnetic Expansion Control (MAGEC) growing rods

Children who develop a spine curvature before the age of 10 (early-onset scoliosis) can’t have spinal fusion because their bodies are still growing. For these children, our orthopaedic surgeons attach magnetic growing rods to a curved spine. Your child’s doctor uses an external magnetic device to lengthen the rods and grow the spine without multiple invasive surgeries.

Vertebral body tethering

We helped pioneer The Tether, a vertebral body tethering system that treats scoliosis without spinal fusion surgery. Your child’s surgeon performs the procedure through small incisions in the ribs. This minimally invasive approach causes less pain and scarring, which helps speed recovery.

During this procedure, surgeons:

  • Implant bone screws into the curved section of the spine
  • Attach a flexible cord (tether) to the screws
  • Apply tension to the cord to partially straighten the spine

As your child grows, continued cord tension helps straighten the spine while preventing the curvature from getting worse.