Your Health: Scoliosis treatment breakthrough

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 4:17 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - An estimated nine million people live with scoliosis, where the spine curves sideways, causing pain and deformities.

Traditionally, children are put in back braces to try to straighten things out. If that doesn’t work, fusion surgery is the next step, but it has its limitations.

A less invasive treatment option is giving kids and easier way to ease their pain.

Ruby and Ire Levitt are sisters who have a lot in common. They both has scoliosis, just like their mother and grandmother. The difference between the two is that Ire has not had surgery, but Ruby tried something new to straighten her spine: vertebral body tethering (VBT).

“It allows us to approach the spine differently so that we don’t have to disrupt quite as many muscles and underlying anatomy,” said Dr. Jaren Riley. “It also allows us to maintain the flexibility of the spine.”

Through four small incisions, Riley use 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,” Riley said. “And so, the curve will gradually get straighter and straighter.”

Ruby had a 52-degree curve in her spine before surgery and after VBT, it was 18. She said she’s pain-free and an inch taller.

Ire is planning to have the same surgery this summer.

Riley said spinal fusion used to be the only option and that can greatly inhibit movement and flexibility.

VBT is only approved for children who are still growing.

More: Your Health

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