Over the years, spine specialists have been developing different ways to treat adolescent idiopathic scoliosis – a spine condition that affects 4 in 100 adolescents. One of these new procedures is the minimally invasive Vertebral Body Tethering (VBT). This surgery straightens the spine curve by restraining the growth on one side of the vertebrae.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about vertebral body tethering – its benefits, disadvantages, and possible complications.
Vertebral Body Tethering: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Vertebral body tethering – also known as Anterior Spinal Growth Tethering – is a new treatment for scoliosis approved by the FDA. It utilizes a flexible cord installed on one side of the spine to inhibit its growth, while the other side continues to develop normally.
What makes this procedure a plausible choice is that it doesn’t limit the patient’s mobility like spinal fusion surgeries. But as with most surgeries, vertebral body tethering comes with a few disadvantages and complications such as overcorrection, site infection, and tether breakage.
Pros of Vertebral Body Tethering
In the past years, spinal fusion surgeries are considered the primary treatment for scoliosis with severe curves. Years of research have developed this treatment to yield more success rates. However, spine fusions meant limited spine motion. This eventually puts the patient at risk of acquiring spine arthritis. This disadvantage pushed specialists to develop a procedure – like VBT – that preserves the spinal motion in the lower back.
While it only gained FDA approval in 2019, VBT has been producing promising results during the last decade. Some of the reasons why patients favor this treatment is because of the following:
- Motion preservation
- Minimal trauma
- Discreet incisions
- Relatively less complications
Cons of Vertebral Body Tethering
Since it is a relatively new technology, there isn’t much information about the long-term effects of the treatment. But with the help of long-term results and data from other implant systems, possible scenarios can be predicted.
There is a risk of tether breakage in the long-term usage, but the cord doesn’t need to be attached to the spine your entire life. Depending on the surgeon’s verdict, the tether can be removed once the spine growth has been modulated.
Possible Complications of Vertebral Body Tethering
Although the treatment is minimally invasive, patients opting for VBT can experience side effects of a surgery such as the following:
- Infection at the surgery site
- Nerve damage
- Back pain
- Irritation due to screws
In more severe cases, patients are also at risk of:
- Tether breakage
- Postoperative pneumothorax
- Disc degeneration
Once you feel extreme discomfort after the surgery, contact your surgeon immediately to prevent the complications from worsening.
Consult Spine Specialists at Scoliosis Associates
At Scoliosis Associates, we will help you return to your daily routine in a matter of weeks after a successful Vertebral Body Tethering surgery. Our team of spine specialists are experienced in giving you the care and treatment needed for your condition. Give us a call to schedule a consultation with our skilled doctors.