What is Anterior Scoliosis Correction (ASC)?
ASC, otherwise known as vertebral body tethering, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is designed to eliminate the abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. This form of treatment is still rather new. Some would even venture to say that it is experimental. However, thus far the procedure has demonstrated promising results for pediatric patients with scoliosis.
Over the past century, doctors have made great strides in the field of scoliosis treatment. Of course, bracing has been around for perhaps a bit longer than that. Nevertheless, recent developments such as spinal fusion and stapling have been highly successful. And, currently, we have even more exciting options available to reverse scoliosis, such as ASC.
That being said, this form of treatment is not necessarily a replacement for what already exists. Instead, ASC opens up additional avenues for patients when the specifics of their case demand something different. Naturally, that’s really what we want from modern medicine when we aren’t feeling well: We want options. The power to choose the best treatment for us.
So how does ASC work? Without getting too jargony, the procedure involves the use of screws and a rope-like device called a tether. First, the performing surgeon places the screws on the convex side of the abnormal curvature. Then, the surgeon threads the tether along the sides of the vertebrae. Once the tether is in place, your doctor will pull it taut, which should instantly correct the spinal deformity (albeit partially). The tether will support the patient’s spine as he or she grows, both preventing the curvature from progressing any further and slowly correcting it.
Advantages of Anterior Scoliosis Correction (ASC)
ASC is considered an alternative to spinal fusion, but what makes it worthy of that coveted title?
Naturally, any surgical procedure comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Of course, spinal fusion and ASC are no exception to the rule. However, since these procedures are both classified as minimally invasive, they boast a lot of the same advantages.
That being said, there are some disadvantages associated with spinal fusion that ASC avoids entirely. Here are a list of reasons why an ASC might be the right choice to treat your child’s scoliosis:
- Lower rates of complication than spinal fusion
- Less bleeding than traditional procedures
- Less scarring and faster recovery time than more invasive surgeries
- Preserves spinal mobility better than spinal fusion
- Higher rates of surgical success than other growth modulation techniques
- Prevents (and even corrects) further progression of the curve
Of course, whether or not the procedure is right for you will depend on a variety of factors. As a patient, it is always a good idea to communicate with your doctor and ask questions. He or she will be able to tell you if ASC is an ideal treatment for you.
Eligibility Requirements for an Anterior Scoliosis Correction (ASC)
You must understand this about ASC: Initially, after the procedure, the spinal deformity will only be fixed partially. Later on, however, the abnormal curvature will resolve itself more completely as the patient’s skeleton matures.
You might be able to see where this is going. Basically, this means that the patient’s eligibility increases dramatically if he or she has yet to reach skeletal maturity. In other words, an ideal patient is often between the ages of 8 and 15. Going too far below this age range may lead to unwanted complications, whereas going too far above it may affect the efficacy of the treatment in general.
But, of course, the age of the patient is not the only factor to consider. Certain conditions must be met regarding the nature of the patient’s scoliosis. Firstly, the curvature of deformity should ideally reside between 35 and 60 degrees. Secondly, it’s also important that the patient has been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis (no apparent cause) as opposed to congenital or injury-induced scoliosis. If even one of these conditions is not met, then it may be better for your child to undergo a spinal fusion instead.
Naturally, some of these criteria exist because ASC is still technically part of an ongoing research study. As a form of treatment, it has great potential, and we do have results to back that up. However, the medical community requires a lot of hardcore scientific proof before going the whole hog. It’s all just a natural part of the process when it comes to making a procedure commonplace. But, of course, what do you expect from an industry whose most basic tenet is thankfully “first, do no harm?
How Do I Know If I Have Scoliosis?
Interestingly enough, there are a lot of people who have scoliosis and do not even know it. Sometimes, a person may have the condition, but it’s not major enough for them to exhibit any symptoms at all, including pain. In fact, most cases of scoliosis are mild in such regards. This is a bit of a problem when it comes to children. We are more likely to notice their scoliotic curves as they progress with time. If you happen to notice even the slightest bodily asymmetry in your child, then you should make an appointment with your primary care physician.
Most of the time, the cause of scoliosis is unknown, but there are cases in which the cause is identifiable. Mostly, these cases involve trauma or infections to the spine or preexisting conditions that are present in the patient at birth. Additionally, neuromuscular problems such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy may also cause scoliosis. All that being said, however, ASC is specifically best for patients with idiopathic scoliosis (no known cause).
There are a few risk factors that you may also want to consider. As you might expect, age is one of them. Signs and symptoms of scoliosis usually begin to appear once a period of rapid growth occurs in a young patient. Aside from that, however, there are also risk factors involving gender and family history. Scoliosis occurs in both genders at the same rate. However, studies show that females are at a higher risk of having their scoliotic curves progress. And, of course, scoliosis is also known to run in families.
Do you or your child have scoliosis? Are you interested in ASC as a form of treatment? If so, please contact The Advanced Spine Center at (973) 538-0900. Our doctors and surgeons are well-versed in the most advanced and minimally invasive surgical techniques. We will make sure to put you on a treatment plan that works best for the needs of your individual case. Contact us today!