Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Help for Scoliosis

Medical Breakthroughs
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Scoliosis is a condition that can leave the spine severely twisted, causing pain and in some cases difficulty breathing. For cases that require major spinal surgery, there's now a new less-invasive option.

Since she was a small child, Miliana Arana has dreamt of being a dancer. But last year -- at age 14 -- her mother noticed something that nearly shattered those dreams.

"I noticed her from the back, which is an angle we don't often see, and I noticed that she was leaning to one side," said Evelyn Arana, Miliana's mother.

"She kept asking me why was I leaning to one side, and I told her I wasn't doing it on purpose," Miliana said.

X-rays of Miliana's spine showed a curve of more than 45 degrees. She had scoliosis and needed surgery.

Instead of standard spinal fusion -- which requires a long incision down the back -- Baron Lonner, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, opted for a new, less-invasive technique. By going in from the side, it disrupts less muscle and leaves only these small scars.

"We go between the ribs and we remove the discs," said Dr. Lonner.

Using thoracoscopic surgery, discs between the vertebrae are replaced with bone from Miliana's ribs. A titanium rod and screws are then used to squeeze the vertebrae together, straightening the spine.

"We fuse less levels of the spine, so that long term they have better flexibility and less risk of the lower discs of the spine wearing down, and their recovery is much quicker," said Dr. Lonner.

Six months later, Miliana's been given the okay to start dancing again.

Each year, more than 100,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with scoliosis. Of every 1,000 children, three to five of them will develop spinal curves large enough to need treatment.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Baron Lonner, M.D.
Scoliosis Associates
212 East 69th Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 737-5540