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Children's National Hospital performs first minimally invasive spinal tether surgery in region

Surgeons used new FDA approved vertebral body tethering system February 10, 2021

On Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, Children’s National Hospital performed the first anterior vertebral body tethering procedure for a child in the Washington, D.C. area. The device is a recently approved option for treating kids with idiopathic scoliosis, the most common type of scoliosis. It allows for gradual correction of a spinal deformity through the natural growth of the spine, leading to improvements in spinal alignment while maintaining spinal flexibility. 

In August 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first spinal tether system for pediatric patients called The Tether – Vertebral Body Tethering System. This device is attached to the spine during a minimally invasive thorascopic procedure performed by a multidisciplinary medical team, which includes orthopaedic surgery, thoracic surgery and anesthesia.

“This promising technology may help maintain the flexibility of the spine as it grows straighter over time,” says Matthew Oetgen, M.D., MBA, chief of Orthopaedics at Children’s National. “Novel devices like The Tether offer additional treatment options for idiopathic scoliosis, which have the potential to improve pediatric surgical outcomes and quality of life for children and adolescents with significant spinal deformities.”

The procedure at Children’s National brought together some the region’s best pediatric orthopaedic and thoracic surgeons, including Dr. Oetgen, Shannon Kelly, M.D., associate chief of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Timothy Kane, M.D., chief of General and Thoracic Surgery.  

“Children’s National can offer these types of procedures because the hospital is home to many talented pediatric surgeons across specialties, many of whom are experts in minimally invasive techniques for children,” says Dr. Kane. “We collaborate together, often, because we know that’s the best way to continually improve the care we provide to children and their families.” 

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis and can occur in children between age 10 and 18 or until they are fully grown. Spinal fusion surgery is the most common treatment for children with the most severe spine curvatures and continues to be the “gold standard” for surgical treatment of this condition. It takes about three months for a child or adolescent to fully recover from the procedure. While spinal fusion produces excellent and reproducible outcomes, in certain patients with less severe deformities and significant skeletal growth remaining, vertebral body tethering may offer some benefits over spinal fusion. In clinical trials, the spinal tether was shown to shorten recovery time and increase range of motion. Early diagnosis is vital to dictate which treatment will be most beneficial.

Media Contact: Beth Riggs | 301-233-4038


About Children’s National Hospital

Children’s National Hospital, based in Washington, D.C., celebrates 150 years of pediatric care, research and commitment to community. Volunteers opened the hospital in 1870 with 12 beds for children displaced after the Civil War. Today, 150 years stronger, it is among the nation’s top 10 children’s hospitals. It is ranked No.1 for newborn care for the fourth straight year and ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. Children’s National is transforming pediatric medicine for all children. In 2021, the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus will open, the first in the nation dedicated to pediatric research. Children’s National has been designated three times in a row as a Magnet® hospital, demonstrating the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty care locations in the D.C. metropolitan area, including the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs. Children’s National is home to the Children’s National Research Institute and Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation and is the nation’s seventh-highest NIH-funded children’s hospital. It is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels.

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