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Dancer Leaps Into Innovative Fusionless Option

Many young people dream of becoming dancers and expressing their emotions through the art form. Jenna is a 14-year-old with a passion for dancing that she has had since she was 3. She also has a history of juvenile idiopathic scoliosis that was diagnosed at age 8, which for a dancer can affect posture, alignment and flexibility. Her parents, worried about the risks and possible complications of surgery, sought an orthopaedic physician in the Los Angeles area offering innovative treatments that would correct her curves yet maintain her flexibility.

Jenna and her family visited Robert H. Cho, M.D., chief of staff at Shriners for Children Medical Center — Pasadena. They were adamant about maintaining her spinal flexibility so she can continue dancing. Dr. Cho provided Jenna and her parents options for her spine care and recommended a new procedure called vertebral body tethering (VBT), an alternative to spine fusions. Jenna was a candidate for VBT, as she had a 57-degree curvature of the spine.

Jenna’s surgery was in May 2020, and she is the first patient from Shriners for Children Medical Center to have the surgery post-FDA clearance, with a new device specifically for VBT. The Tether™ is the first commercially available product used specifically for anterior vertebral body tethering, a surgical procedure and a promising alternative for certain patients with scoliosis who are still growing and for whom surgery is indicated as eligible. The Shriners Hospitals for Children health care system has a patent on the new device designed specifically for VBT surgeries.

“Jenna is showing remarkable progress. The tether will gently guide spinal correction using the body’s growth to improve correction over time,” said Dr. Cho. "Properly selected patients can achieve curve correction while maintaining mobility."

Jenna returned to dancing with some limits just weeks after her surgery. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, she persevered and attended a three-week dance intensive that included ballet, pointe, jazz and contemporary classes. Her mother, Juanita, said, “She’s glad she did it. She doesn't have any pain and feels like she didn’t have surgery.”

Jenna encourages anyone who is a candidate for VBT as an alternate to fusion to do it. She said, "You're going to feel so great once you recover, it will feel like surgery never even happened. I can still do all the things I did before and I feel like my dancing has improved since surgery."


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