Surgery for Scoliosis in Children

Orthopedic spine surgeons at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone specialize in treating children and adolescents with scoliosis who have large spinal curvatures of more than 50 degrees. Surgery is often the most effective treatment when scoliosis cannot be corrected or controlled with a brace, physical therapy, or casting.

Our experts offer several surgical options to correct spine curvatures and other spinal abnormalities. We maintain our high standards of treatment and care by working closely with neurosurgeons, thoracic surgeons, and plastic surgeons.

Nonfusion Surgery for Early-Onset Scoliosis

Our orthopedic spine surgeons perform several nonfusion surgical techniques to treat children with severe, progressive scoliosis while they are still growing. One of these techniques uses a Mehta cast to help straighten the spine. The cast is placed in the operating room, and your child can often go home the same day. The surgeon replaces the Mehta cast every two or three months, as your child grows.

Another nonfusion technique uses magnetic growing rods to correct the curve in your child’s spine. The surgeon attaches one or two magnetic rods to the curve and uses an external remote control to lengthen the rods as your child grows.

We also perform vertebral body tethering, a minimally invasive procedure that uses a cord, or tether, to pull the spine into alignment. During this procedure, the surgeon makes small incisions and uses a thoracoscope—a thin, flexible tube with a light and a small camera on the end—to guide the tether and attach it to the spine. Spinal tethering can also be performed using an anterior surgical approach, referred to as anterior scoliosis correction, which requires only two small incisions, one under each arm.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a traditional surgical procedure that corrects spine curvature in children with scoliosis. Surgeons use rods, screws, and small pieces of bone—called bone grafts—to correct the scoliosis by fusing the vertebrae that are causing the curvature. At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, a plastic surgeon often closes the incision, which greatly reduces the risk of infection after surgery.

The surgical rods can be left in place permanently, and children do not require a brace after surgery. The fusion takes approximately three months to heal.

After spinal fusion surgery, children remain in the hospital for three to five days and work with a physical therapist until they can walk up and down stairs and are able to dress themselves and perform other tasks without losing their balance. After leaving the hospital, children who are recuperating at home must avoid extreme bending, twisting, stooping, or lifting of heavy objects. Children can typically return to normal activities in three months.