Tendon procedure helps girl walk

April 28, 2010 5:36:52 PM PDT
Tiny, well-placed pokes are helping children with cerebral palsy leave their wheelchairs and walk. Yet many parents and even doctors don't know this simple, new procedure is an option.

Savannah Spencer won the title of Little Miss Wheelchair Tennessee, but now, she has something even more important: she can walk.

"I can walk in my walker at school and not be in my wheelchair all the time," Savannah said.

She can sit at a desk at school, just like the other kids.

"At the age of 10, for the first time in her life, she's able to independently stand up, walk across the room and do some things on her own," said her mother, Tracey Spencer.

Savannah's cerebral palsy kept her in a wheelchair because her muscles were so tight, her knees stayed bent. When children with CP grow, it gets worse: muscles and tendons get even tighter.

"Dr. Yngve was able to do releases, tendon releases, in all those areas at one time with a minimally invasive incision site. You could barely even see," Tracey said.

Savannah's father, an orthopedic surgeon in Tennessee, brought her to the University of Texas-Medical Branch for the procedure. Many families who have children with CP don't know this easy new tendon release is an option.

"When people start seeing the results, then more and more people start catching on and saying, 'Oh my kid has this and I want to try that. I want to see this guy,' and then it just spread like that,'" said her father, Dr. Edwin Spencer.

Dr. David Yngve uses tiny little pokes to loosen and lengthen taut tendons.

"It allows some of the tougher tightness to be cut and some of the muscle underneath can actually stretch out," said Dr. Yngve, who's the chief of pediatric orthopedics at UTMB.

Stretching out enough to enable kids like Savannah to walk.

"So many people have told me, 'I wish we had somebody in Knoxville that would do the procedure Savannah had done," Tracey said.

Dr. Yngve has performed 300 of these procedures, and he says 90 percent have been successful. The UTMB physician is one of a handful of surgeons in the United States who does the procedure.


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