Management of severe spinal deformity: Scoliosis and kyphosis

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69 Scopus citations


Study Design.: Review of the literature and author ;s experience with the treatment of severe spinal deformity. Objective: To define the anatomic and physiologic challenges in treating severe spinal deformity and to describe the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative strategies to achieve the optimal safe result. Summary of Background Data.: Severe pediatric spinal deformity is a relatively uncommon condition that often arises following treatment of early onset scoliosis. Patients most often present with severe clinical and radiographic deformity with poor pulmonary function. In contrast to the more common adolescent idiopathic scoliosis which is a primary spinal deformity, patients with severe spine deformity have the added chest wall deformity which may need to be addressed at the time of treatment. Previous literature has identified the challenges in the treatment of these patients and the higher risk for complications. Methods: A literature review and review of the author ;s personal experience in the treatment of these patients was performed. An assessment of the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative factors leading to an optimal result was analyzed and reported. RESULTS.: The early evaluation should include a multidisciplinary approach from the orthopaedic surgeon, pulmonologist, anesthesiologist, and perhaps the neurologist to provide a baseline assessment. Advanced imaging of the spine with computed tomography is useful especially when previous surgery has been performed and/or when plain radiography is limited. Magnetic resonance imaging of the spinal cord and brain stem is important to ensure that no neural axis abnormalities are present and can determine if spinal cord compression is present. Severe spinal deformity should be distinguished from the more common adolescent idiopathic scoliosis deformity in that both the spine and the chest wall are affected. Preoperative halo-gravity traction is an invaluable tool to improve the flexibility of the spine and chest, to improve pulmonary function, and to stress the spinal cord while the patient is awake and provides feedback as to the neurologic assessment. Surgical treatment should be divided into 3 phases. First, anchor placement which should be predominantly pedicle screws placed in a segmental fashion and also use of reduction screws when performing vertebral column resections. Second, steps should be performed to increase the flexibility of the spine and chest with incremental releases from simple posterior soft tissue releases to posterior facet resections, to vertebral column resections for the most severe deformity. The third phase is the correction of the spine and chest wall deformity. Many strategies can be used to correct these deformities and relies on good anchor point fixation and good releases of the spine and chest wall. Provisional rod fixation is critical when performing resection of the spine to allow for safe correction of the deformity. Improvements in the clinical and radiographic appearance, pulmonary function, and self image are often dramatic. CONCLUSION.: The treatment of severe spinal deformity is challenging and requires careful assessment of the patient by the orthopaedic surgeon, anesthesiologist, pulmonologist, and neurologist especially when neurologic deficits are present. Proper planning and execution of the correct surgical procedure for the surgeon provides an outstanding life-changing result in these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2186-2192
Number of pages7
Issue number25
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


  • halo-gravity traction
  • prone thoracoscopic release
  • severe spine deformity
  • vertebral column resection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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