Early-onset Scoliosis: Contemporary Decision-making and Treatment Options

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Abstract

Early-onset scoliosis (EOS) describes a wide array of diagnoses and deformities exposed to growth. This potentially life-threatening condition is still 1 of the biggest challenges in pediatric orthopaedics. The enlightenment of Bob Campbell’s thoracic insufficiency syndrome concept and the negative impact of the earlier short and straight spine fusion approach on respiratory function and survival have fueled the evolution of EOS care. Despite all the progress made, growth-friendly spine surgery remains to be a burden to patients and caregivers. Even down-sized implants and remote-controlled noninvasive rod expansions do not omit unexpected returns to the operating room: failures of foundations, rod breakage, difficulties to keep the sagittal balance, progressive transverse plane deformities, stiffening, and the need for final instrumented fusion are still common. However, past experience and the current multitude of surgical strategies and implants have sharpened the decision-making process, patients with thoracic insufficiency syndrome require earliest possible vertical expandable prosthetic titanium ribs application. Flexible deformities below 60 degrees, with normal spinal anatomy and without thoracic involvement, benefit from serial Mehta casting which revived as a long available but not-used strategy. In case of progression, standard double growing rods or—if available, affordable, and applicable—magnetically controlled motorized rods provide deformity control and growth promotion. Shilla growth-guiding technique is a less costly alternative. Its lack of stiff lengthening boxes or actuators may be beneficial in difficult deformities. Anterior convex flexible tethering promises benefits of sparing the trunk muscles and keeping mobility. However, this step towards a true nonfusion concept has yet to stand the test of broad clinical application.

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