Braces for the spine get young gymnast up and tumbling

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(Credit: Ivanhoe Newswire)

Imagine, the faster you grow, the faster your spine curves. That’s what happens when you’re a child with scoliosis. It can be painful and debilitating. Now there’s a new experimental procedure to correct the curvature.

Ever since Sophie Clem can remember, she’s loved to bend and bounce and flip and flop! “I just have had quite a lot of balance and on the bars I just ended up getting high scores, ” said 11- year old Sophie Clem.

But this is the first time in five months she’s been back in the gym. Sophia was worried her tumbling days were numbered. Diagnosed at age seven with scoliosis. “it just kinda looked like a curve,” said Sophie.

Sophie’s mom, Denise Clem, said, “We tried bracing, physical therapy, chiropractic care.”  But her condition got worse. What started as a 14 degree curve was now 36 degrees. Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Jaren Riley, MD at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children’s main concern for kids with scoliosis: keep them moving and maintain their range of motion.

One option, a traditional spinal fusion that would likely stop Sophia’s growth or a new experimental surgery called vertebral body tethering. Dr. Riley said, “we place these screws, one screw into each of these individual bones of the spine. And then between each of those screws we place a rope. Then tension that rope between the screws to make this curve straighten out.”

Think of it like braces for the spine.

He continued, “so the long side of the spine stays put, the short side keeps growing and the curve starts to straighten out.”

Doctors saw immediate results. On the left is Sophia’s spine before surgery. On the right, after.

“It feels like a huge step forward, quite honestly,” said Dr. Riley.

“The one thing I want to get back is like handstands or cartwheels on the beam cause their really fun to do,” Sophie told Ivanhoe.

The surgery is not FDA approved. Risks include injury to the heart and lungs, infection, nerve damage and paralysis. Because it is new, long term issues are not known.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Jamison Kozcan, Editor.

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