Study design: Review of relevant literature including personal opinions.
Objective: To review the current researches investigating the efficacy of growing rod and thoracic expansion techniques in the treatment of congenital spine deformity of young children, and to highlight the contrasting advantages and limitations in the fusionless treatment of progressive congenital scoliosis.
Summary of background data: Congenital scoliosis has the potential for severe spinal deformity and thoracic insufficiency syndrome (TIS). Conventional fusion treatments in children tend to shorten the spine further exacerbating trunk shortening and TIS. In the surgical treatment of congenital spinal deformities in young children, while reconstructing the spinal deformity, one should simultaneously pursue preserving the growth potential of the vertebrae, improving the volume, symmetry, and functions of the thorax, and protecting this improvement during the growth. Today, employed in the treatment of spinal deformities of young children, there are 2 deformity reconstruction methods serving these targets: Growing rod technique and vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib (VEPTR) with or without expansion thoracostomy.
Methods: Peer-reviewed research articles and major international meeting presentations were reviewed. Methods were compared in terms of advantages and limitations.
Results: The growing rod technique is a safe and reliable method in the treatment of congenital spine deformity of young children who present some flexibility in the anomalous segment, or when the congenital anomaly involves a vertebral segment too long for resection, or with compensating curve with structural pattern concomitant to the congenital deformity. Expansion thoracostomy and VEPTR are the appropriate choice for severe congenital spine deformity when a large amount of growth remains. Although ventilator dependence is significantly decreasing, thoracic volume and space available for the lung are increased after expansion thoracostomy and VEPTR.
Conclusion: Growing rod technique should be used in patients where the primary problem is at the vertebral column. If the patient has rib fusions and/or TIS has developed, in other words, if the primary problem involves the thoracic cage, expansion thoracostomy and VEPTR should be an appropriate option.