PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There is a new alternative for kids who need surgery to treat scoliosis. The condition is an abnormal curvature of the spine and it affects about seven million people in the U.S.
Most cases of scoliosis can be treated with a back brace, but more severe cases require surgery, which can lead to limited flexibility. That's where this new option is making a difference.
"I just really liked how the dancers looked on stage and I loved their pointe shoes and I just really wanted to do that," said Aubrey Cindia.
Cindia has been dancing since pre-school. When she was nine, doctors noticed a curvature in her spine. She was diagnosed with scoliosis.
She wore a brace for four years and continued to dance, but while on vacation her mother noticed the curve had gotten significantly worse. Her doctor said she'd need surgery.
Typically, spinal fusion is performed, which is where metal rods are inserted to reposition the spine. But Dr. Ryan Goodwin at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital suggested a more flexible solution.
"Tethering is an option for patients who still have growth remaining and their curves are large enough. Imagine their spine is curved like this. We apply the tether to this side, so what that would do is it straightens a little bit and keeps this side from growing and as the child begins growing, this side will continue to grow over time, depending on how much growth they have remaining," he explained.
Cindia underwent a four hour minimally-invasive tethering surgery. Five months later, she returned to dance, gymnastics and even aerial acrobatics.
"I feel the same as I was before I was diagnosed," she said.
Right now, only a small subset of patients are candidates for this new treatment, but that could be expanding.
There are several surgeons in our area doing the procedure.
Cindia is now considered a professional-level ballerina.