Braces for the spin


A young gymnast with Scoliosis is one of the first to get ‘braces’ for her spine.

Ever since Sophie Clem can remember, she’s loved to bend and bounce and flip and flop!

Sophie Clem, 11-years-old said, “I just have had quite a lot of balance and on the bars, I just ended up getting high scores.”

But this is the first time in five months she’s been back in the gym. Sophie was worried her tumbling days were numbered. Diagnosed at age seven with Scoliosis.

“It just kinda looked like a curve,” said Sophie Clem.

“We tried bracing, physical therapy, chiropractic care,” said Denise Clem.

But her condition got worse. What started as a 14-degree curve is now 36 degrees.

Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Jaren Riley’s main concern for kids with Scoliosis: Keep them moving and maintain their range of motion.

One option, a traditional spinal fusion that would likely stop Sophia’s growth or a new experimental surgery called vertebral body tethering.

Jaren Riley, MD, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children said, “We place these screws, one screw into each of these individual bones of the spine. And then between each of those screws, we place a rope. Then tension that rope between the screws to make this curve straighten out.”

Think of it like braces for the spine.

“So the long side of the spine stays put, the short side keeps growing and the curve starts to straighten out,” said Doctor Riley.

Doctors saw immediate results. On the left is Sophia’s spine before surgery. On the right, after.

“It feels like a huge step forward, quite honestly,” said Doctor Riley.

Sophie Clem said, “The one thing I want to get back is like handstands or cartwheels on the beam cause their really fun to do.”

The surgery is not FDA approved. Risks include injury to the heart and lungs, infection, nerve damage and paralysis. Because it is new, long term issues are not known.

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