Background: Distraction-based techniques allow spinal growth until skeletal maturity while preventing curve progression.
Methods: Two multicenter early-onset scoliosis databases were used to identify patients with idiopathic spine abnormalities treated with traditional growing rods (TGR) or vertically expandable titanium ribs (VEPTR). Patients underwent at least 4 lengthenings and had at least 5-year follow-up. Significance was set at P<0.05.
Results: In total, 50 patients treated with TGR and 22 treated with VEPTR were included. Mean (±SD) age at surgery was 5.5 (±2.0) years for the TGR group versus 4.3 (±1.9) years for the VEPTR group (P=0.044); other demographic parameters were similar. VEPTR patients had more procedures (mean 15±4.2) than TGR patients (mean 10±4.0) (P=0.001). Unilateral constructs were present in 18% (4 of 22) of VEPTR and 16% (8 of 50) of TGR patients. Bilateral constructs spanned a mean 2.1 additional surgical levels and exposed patients to 1.6 fewer procedures than unilateral constructs. Curve correction was similar between bilateral and unilateral constructs. TGR patients experienced greater curve correction (50%) than VEPTR patients (27%) (P<0.001) and achieved a greater percentage of thoracic height gain (24%) than VEPTR patients (12%) (P=0.024). At latest follow-up, TGR patients had better maintenance of curve correction, less kyphosis, and 15% greater absolute gain in thoracic height versus VEPTR patients. TGR patients had a lower rate of wound complications (14%) than VEPTR patients (41%) (P=0.011).
Conclusions: In patients with idiopathic early-onset scoliosis, TGRs produced greater initial curve correction, greater thoracic height gains, less kyphosis, and lower incidence of wound complications compared with VEPTR.
Level of evidence: Level III.