New procedure uses staples to treat scoliosis

July 16, 2010 4:58:00 PM PDT
Many Houston parents are taking their children to the doctor for back to school physicals, and now a scoliosis check is required for children in several grades. But for decades, if doctors found a curve in the spine, there was only one option: surgery to put rods in child's back to straighten the spine. But now, there's something brand new: staples.

When she was only six years old, Jordyn English had scoliosis so badly that the doctors gave her parents some really bad news: to straighten her spine, she'd need to wear a back brace for 6 years and then have scoliosis surgery to put rods in her back.

"I thought there has to be something better than that," said her father, Jason English.

And they found it in staples.

"This is what it looks like and it shaped like a 'C,'" said Shriners Hospital for Children Dr. Rex Marco, who is also Jordyn English's orthopedic surgeon.

They use staples to straighten the spine instead of the standard rods and screws.

"We staple this bone to that bone and this bone to that bone," Dr. Marco said. "So it can grow, and it can straighten out the spine even more as the child grows."

But it was only available at the Shriners hospital in Philadelphia. But that surgeon decided to do Jordyn English's surgery at Shriners in Houston and teach it to a dozen or so doctors here.

"I was asleep for 7 hours that's how long it took but it felt like one second," Jordyn English said.

"Once we saw the X-Rays, it's amazing to see what she was and even what she is now this quickly after the surgery," Jason English said. "It's great."

After the surgery, the size of Jordyn English's scoliosis curve was reduced from 33 degrees to 18. The staples look like a row of C's. Surgeons also needed to use one rod.

Her mother, Stacey English, was especially relieved. She has scoliosis too.

"She can play sports and she can do anything, unlike the rod back in my day they were gonna put in my back," Stacey English said.

"And I have a brace, and it's hard," Jordyn English said.

She will wear that brace about six months.

And her parents, who wouldn't accept the status quo, ending up bringing something better for the kids in Texas who have scoliosis -- just like their daughter.

Jordyn English was the first child in Texas to have the staple surgery for scoliosis. Doctors say one advantage is that they can use it to treat children much earlier, before the curve in their spine gets so bad.