Once the spine begins to curve, it usually changes quite dramatically in just a 9 month period. It’s important to see the orthopedic surgeon every 6 months. Our experience is, once scoliosis begins, it’s inevitable that surgery will be necessary. Children seem to have better outcomes post-scoliosis surgery if the surgery is done before the curvature progresses too severely.
Studies have shown that spinal fusion surgery, which is the permanent placement of a rod, before the age of 10 stops the growth of the spine. However, if done after the age of 10, the bone will continue to grow even with permanent rod placement.
The alternative to spinal fusion is an expansion rod that is attached at the top and bottom of the spine and can be expanded using magnets to lengthen the rod. Extending the rod to allow for growth is done as an outpatient procedure. The downside of the expansion rod is the hardware is not permanent, and subsequent surgery is necessary to replace the expandable hardware with a permanent rod, resulting in two major surgeries.
Jordan’s hardware failed early on and they regret not going with the permanent rod from the onset.
If your child has ANY surgery, tell the surgeon and anesthesia team that he/she is at risk of aspiration due to GAN, and they must make certain the airway is protected for many days post-surgery. It may take a week or more for a GAN patient’s GI tract to wake up and begin moving due to anesthesia and pain medications. Your child should not be allowed to eat anything by mouth until the doctor can hear the bowels moving by listening with a stethoscope. This is CRITICAL. One GAN child aspirated and died following scoliosis surgery because she began eating even before being discharged from the ICU.