Skip to main content Skip to navigation
We care about your privacy. Read about your rights and how we protect your data. Get Details

Water Main Break Advisory
We are open for business and taking extra preventative measures to keep you safe. Read more ❱❱

Spine Treatments

At Children’s National, we offer the complete range of treatments for pediatric spinal deformities. Our expert spine doctors use the most effective, least invasive techniques when treating your child. We’re here to help return your child back to a normal, active life.

Treating Spine Deformities at Children’s National

No two children experience a spinal deformity in the same way. Our team takes time to thoroughly evaluate your child’s condition and learn about your family’s treatment goals. This helps us select the treatments that are best for your child’s spinal deformity.

Spinal treatments at Children’s National are:

  • Comprehensive: Our Spinal Fusion Surgical Home helps children with a sideways curve in their spine (idiopathic scoliosis) achieve excellent outcomes in the safest way possible. From initial diagnosis through surgery and follow up care, we offer a seamless care experience. 
  • Innovative: We are the only hospital in the Washington, DC area using the Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR®). This new device creates chest space to help children with severe spine and chest wall deformities breathe normally. VEPTR also promotes better lung growth.  
  • Safe: Our orthopaedic surgeons were the first in the Mid-Atlantic area using the O-arm® Surgical Imaging System. This technology uses safe levels of radiation to create three-dimensional (3D) inter-operative images. We use the O-arm® system to help us position spine implants more precisely.
  • Non-invasive: We were among the first hospitals in the country offering the MAGnetic Expansion Control (MAGEC™) Growing Rod. After an initial implant procedure, we adjust the rods in minutes during an office visit as opposed to going through repeat surgeries. Learn more: MAGEC Growing Rod Offers Non-Invasive Treatment Option for Early Onset Scoliosis.
  • Family centered: From helping your child with his or her brace to managing activity restrictions after surgery, spine treatments can affect your whole family. Our team is available to answer questions during all stages of your child’s treatment. We offer additional support through resources for families.

Spine Condition Treatments We Offer

When choosing the best, most effective treatment for your child, we consider factors such as:

  • Your child’s diagnosis
  • How quickly the condition is progressing
  • How many years of growth your child has before he or she stops growing (reaches skeletal maturity)
  • Your child’s pain level
  • You and your family’s preferences

We often use non-surgical treatments if your child’s deformity is minor and he or she is not yet skeletally mature. Non-surgical treatments may include:

Surgery may be best for children whose deformity is significant (curve of greater than 50 degrees), non-surgical treatments aren’t working, or the condition is quickly worsening. Surgical treatments may include:

Observation

If your child has a mild spine curve or is almost fully grown, he or she may not need treatment. We will examine your child once or twice per year and take X-rays, when needed, to make sure there aren’t any changes to his or her condition. 

Bracing

A scoliosis brace is a removable device that holds your child’s spine in a straighter position. Bracing works to stop the progression of scoliosis. Bracing does not correct deformities, but it can delay or prevent the need for surgery while your child is still growing.

Casting

We use advanced casting techniques, such as the Mehta Growth Guidance Casting Protocol (Mehta casting). Using this technique, a cast holds your child’s chest and abdomen in place.

We replace the cast every two to four months based on your child’s growth and treatment progress. Your child will wear the cast 24 hours a day, but you can relax knowing he or she can sleep comfortably and move about as if it weren’t there.

VEPTR®

Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR®) is an implantable device that creates necessary space for the lungs to expand so your child can breathe normally. Children’s National is the only hospital in the Washington, DC, metro area using VEPTR®. We also participate in the latest research and clinical trials to improve its effectiveness. VEPTR® works to correct this by straightening the spine and separating the ribs.

MAGEC™ Growing Rod

In 2014, orthopaedic surgeons at Children’s National performed two of the first 15 MAGnetic Expansion Control (MAGEC™) Growing Rod implantations in the country, and the first in the greater Washington, DC, area.

Unlike traditional growing rods, which are lengthened through a surgical procedure, we lengthen MAGEC™ spinal rods during an office visit using an external magnetic controller. The procedure takes only a few minutes.

Traditional growing rods

We use traditional growing rods to straighten curvature in the spine (scoliosis) and to continue adding length in the spinal column as your child grows.

During your child’s straightening surgery, we place growing rods on either side of your child’s spine. The rods stay in place with the help of medical grade hooks and screws. Every 6 months, we lengthen the rods during a short outpatient procedure.

Once your child stops growing (reaches skeletal maturity), he or she may need an additional procedure to replace the rods with a device to permanently hold the spine straight.

Spinal tethering (flexible non-fusion fixation)

Spinal tethering uses bone screws and a strong, flexible cord (tether) to hold your child’s spine in place. Unlike traditional fusion procedures, which permanently join the spine bones (vertebrae), flexible non-fusion fixation works with your child’s natural growth potential to help straighten his or her spine.

We attach spinal tethering to the curved side of your child’s spine. As he or she grows, the tether allows the vertebrae on that side remain in place while allowing the other side to “catch up” and straighten the spine.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion works by permanently connecting (fusing) bones near the curved part of your child’s spine. During a fusion procedure we realign the spine, insert a metal rod to hold it in place, and place small pieces of bone (graft) in between the bones we are fusing. Over time, the graft, rod, and vertebrae heal together to form a single bone.

Learn more about our Spinal Fusion Surgical Home.

Contact Us

For more information or to make an appointment, call us at 202-476-2112, or meet the team.