Congenital scoliosis, a severe and often life-threatening form of scoliosis, is often treated with spinal fusion to prevent it from getting worse, but that causes its own set of problems. Fusion prevents the spine from growing further. When done on very young children, this lack of spinal growth doesn't leave enough room for the heart and lungs as they continue to grow normally.
A new device called a Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib, or VEPTR, straightens out the spine while still allowing it to grow. Dr. John Blanco is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and has been working with the new device and speaks about a recent surgery he performed on a young girl:
“It consists of 2 rings of metal that encircle either one rib or 2 ribs above where the deformity is,” says Dr. Blanco. "And at some point she will need an operation to stop the growth of her spine, but she’s way too young for it right now."