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The Spine Care experts at Children's Mercy manage all aspects of a wide variety of spinal conditions in children and young adults. These conditions include spine deformities such as scoliosis, kyphosis and disc herniations, congenital spine deformity, neuromuscular deformity, spinal fractures/trauma, spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis.

With more than 60 years of combined experience, our spine surgeons and their team are ready to provide expert care for your child and their spine care needs, whether it be surgical or non-surgical intervention. Our advanced practice providers (APRNs) are also specially trained in pediatric orthopedics and spine, and work alongside our surgeons as a trusted resource on the team. 

Your Spine Care team


Your Spine Care team includes Dr. Nigel PriceDr. Richard SchwendDr. John Anderson, and a team of specialized nurse practitioners and registered nurses who all work together to coordinate your child's spine care. The Spine Care team also works closely with many other pediatric specialists, including pediatric anesthesiologists, intensivists, rehabilitative physicians, neurosurgeons, certified orthotists and Child Life specialists.

Everyone on the Spine Care team is a vital component in providing and ensuring the highest level of safety and quality of care before, during and after your child’s procedure and hospital stay.

Services

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Evaluating spinal conditions 

During a spine consultation, your child will be evaluated by a comprehensive care team. This team-based approach allows us to evaluate your child as soon as possible and start them on the path to treatment, if needed.

The iSpine Clinic is for children 10 years and over who need to be seen for an initial evaluation of their spine for scoliosis. This clinic is staffed by nurse practitioners experienced in the care of children with scoliosis.

The Spine Care team at Children’s Mercy is committed to providing outpatient spine care close to home for patients in their community. Learn about our services in Wichita.

Non-surgical services for scoliosis

We offer a full range of non-surgical treatment options for kids with scoliosis. This includes Boston bracing and the Rigo 3D brace. Physical therapy may also be part of your child's treatment plan.

Our team works very hard to prevent surgery whenever possible for children with scoliosis. We offer several customized bracing options, including Boston and Rigo Cheneau styles.

Mehta Casting is a type of body casting used with infants. The casting helps straighten the spines of young children with spinal deformities.

Managing spinal curvature in growing children


Young children's bodies and spines are still growing. We want to help their spine grow straight without fusing it and stopping the growth. For these young children, we offer growth-friendly surgical procedures.

Growing rods help children with early-onset scoliosis to manage their curve while their spine is still growing. The Spine Care team offers a variety of spine growth procedures depending on your child's needs. These include MAGEC Rods (MAGnetic Expansion Control), traditional growing rods, Shilla growing rods and vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR).

This procedure uses an innovative system of screws and tethers to straighten the spine while adolescents are still growing. We have both open and endoscopic surgical options available. This is an alternative to typical instrumentation and fusion for scoliosis.

Children with conditions of the spine and chest wall that interfere with growth and normal function may benefit from a Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR) device.

Spine surgery for spinal curvature


As children approach skeletal maturity, the options for treating spine deformity will change. Your surgeon will discuss what options are best for your child and their specific deformity.

Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more of the vertebrae in the spine. This procedure can be done from the front (anteriorly) or back (posteriorly) and is generally only performed in children and teens who have reached skeletal maturity, meaning their bones are done growing.

Halo Gravity Traction

This is a technique of applying traction to the spine using a halo (metal ring that surrounds the head) and is utilized typically for the treatment of only very large, stiff curves. This halo traction is applied under anesthesia. The halo will be worn full time for several weeks with the goal of stretching out the spine slowly and carefully prior to the scheduled spine surgery.

Spine surgery for spinal defects that are not scoliosis 


Children may present to the Spine Clinic with an array of other spine concerns including back pain, leg pain and/or numbness and tingling. Your spine surgeon will evaluate your child for conditions such as spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, or disc herniations. The surgeon will make recommendations if your child is a candidate for surgical intervention or treatment through non-surgical options. 

Children may experience back pain or leg pain as a result of an unhealthy disc in their back. Our surgeons will evaluate if your child is a candidate for microdiscectomy, a minimally invasive surgery that removes parts of the disc that are putting pressure on your child's spinal nerves.

Short Posterior Fusion for Spondylolisthesis

This procedure typically involves fusing two to three levels of the lower spine rather than a larger amount of the spine to treat spondylolisthesis.

Surgical Navigation for Repair of Spondylolysis

Certain types of spondylolysis may benefit by insertion through a small incision of screws used to repair the defect. Computer aided navigation is used to accurately place the screws in the lower lumbar spine.

Children's Mercy is an American College of Surgeons Verified Center

Highest Level of Surgical Care

Children’s Mercy is one of only 10 centers in the nation to be verified as a Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center — the highest possible rating — by the American College of Surgeons. 

Common Conditions

 
  • Back pain in children and adolescents—while not as common as in adults it can be a source of concern for parents. Depending on the symptoms and signs, the diagnosis and treatment can vary considerably. Often the diagnosis can be made with a thorough history and physical and minimal x-rays. Some children, particularly younger children, presenting with severe pain—particularly at night—require and MRI and lab testing.

  • Scoliosis

    • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis—a curvature of the spine that is typically detected after the age of 10. It can worsen (progression of the curve) and need treatment. The medical provider may recommend observation, exercises, bracing or surgery.
    • Congenital scoliosis—a form of scoliosis where the child had an abnormal vertebra or multiple vertebrae at birth. While many can remain stable, some slowly worsen and can require surgery which is often done before school age.
    • Early onset scoliosis—a curvature of the spine that occurs or is detected before the age of 8-10 years of age.
    • Kyphosis — roundback deformities related to posture and excessive weight. 
    • Neuromuscular scoliosis—a complex form of spine curvature seen in children with nerve and muscles disorders such as cerebral palsy, Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Muscular atrophy, Rett’s syndrome and many more. The curves can become quite severe at an early age and be challenging to treat with bracing. Larger curves often require extensive surgery which can successfully restore a child's upright balance and allow him or her to sit better.
  • Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis—a defect of the posterior structure of the spine caused by injury or overuse. It can also develop over time. Many children can be managed with physical therapy. Some require a temporary brace. Occasionally injections or surgery are necessary because of chronic back pain or instability.

Spine Surgery - What to Expect

Meet Ellie, a teenager with scoliosis who is having spine surgery at Children's Mercy.

Advancing spine care through research


Children’s Mercy was one of the largest contributors of participants in the Bracing in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Trial (BrAIST), a National Institutes of Health-funded study that affirmed the effectiveness of bracing for young people with moderate adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. We continue to be involved in the second phase of the study.

We collaborate with national spine registries to share information and resources within the research and clinical communities.