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The Section of Spine Surgery at Children's Mercy manages all aspects of spinal care in children and are experts in early onset scoliosis. We use innovative surgical treatments, as well as nonsurgical solutions when possible, including vertebral stapling and guided growth techniques. 

Our team

Our fellowship-trained pediatric spine surgeons provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment of spine disorders in patients from birth through early adulthood. We work closely with other Children's Mercy specialists including pediatric anesthesiologists, intensivists, rehabilitative physicians, neurosurgeons, and certified orthotists. 

Research highlights

  • Global Access to Spine Surgery

    • Our team is conducting a study to investigate how the cost of pedicle screws used during spine surgery are impacting children's access to surgical services globally. 

  • Early Onset Scoliosis

    • Richard Schwend, MD, published an article in AAP News about early onset scoliosis an under-recognized but serious condition. Read the full article (pdf). (Used with permission of AAP News.)

  • Transforming Care for Spine Patients

    • The Section of Spine Surgery is involved in a number of research projects. These projects are transforming patient care for children in Kansas City, and around the world. Read full article.


Nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report

The spine surgery program treats a wide range of conditions, including scoliosis, kyphosis and spine trauma. The team also provides services like VEPTR, growing rods, spinal fusion and more. 

Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR) is a device that is used for conditions of the spine and chest wall that interfere with growth and normal function.

Children younger than 10 years of age need a different approach than the older patient and teenager. The growing spine needs to be supported by the treatment.

Mehta Casting is a type of body casting used to help straighten the spines of pediatric patients suffering with spinal deformities.

With certain kinds of spinal curves, the correction and fusion is best done anteriorly, or from the front. This process is known as anterior spinal fusion.

Several factors are taken into consideration when a recommendation is made for treatment versus "watchful waiting" for scoliosis. View the factors here.

Posterior spinal fusion with instrumentation is the most common surgery for idiopathic scoliosis in a young person who is skeletally mature or close to skeletal maturity.

Vertebral body stapling is an effective treatment for pediatric patients with scoliosis. The procedure involves placing metal staples between two vertebral bodies to squeeze the growth plates and help straighten the spine.


  • Scoliosis

  • Kyphosis

  • Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome

  • Spondylolisthesis

  • Spine trauma

  • Spinal tumors

  • Disc Herniations or bulging disc

  • Infectious spine conditions

Adolescent scoliosis

Lateral spinal curvature that appears before the onset of puberty and before skeletal maturity.

Adult scoliosis

Scoliosis of any cause which is present after skeletal maturity.


Any tissue transferred from one site to another in the same individual (iliac bone from the pelvis is commonly used to supplement the fusion mass).

Autologous blood

Blood collected from a person for later transfusion to that same person. This technique is often used prior to elective surgery if blood loss is expected to occur. This may avoid the use of bank blood from unknown donors and significantly reduces the risk of acquiring transmitted diseases.


The practice and technique of transfusing previously drawn autologous blood back to the same patient.

Bone scan

Creates images of bones on computer screen or film to diagnose and monitor spinal deformities.

Cervical spine

The portion of the vertebral column contained in the neck, consisting of seven cervical vertebrae between the skull and the rib cage.

Compensatory curve

In spinal deformity, a secondary curve located above or below the structural curvature, which develops in order to maintain normal body alignment.

Congenital scoliosis

Scoliosis due to bony abnormalities of the spine present at birth. These anomalies are classified as failure of vertebral formation and/or failure of segmentation.


In scoliosis, this refers to loss of spinal balance when the thoracic cage is not centered over the pelvis.


Removal of all or part of an intervertebral disc (the soft tissue that acts as a shock absorber between the vertebral bodies).

Double curve 

Two lateral curvatures (scoliosis) in the same spine. 

Double major curve 

Describes a scoliosis in which these are two structural curves which are usually of equal size. 

Double thoracic curve

A scoliosis with a structural upper thoracic curve, as well as a larger, more deforming lower thoracic curve, and a relatively non-structural lumbar curve.


A congenital anomaly of the spine caused by incomplete development of one side of a vertebra resulting in a wedge shape.

Hysterical scoliosis

A non-structural deformity of the spine that develops as a manifestation of a psychological disorder.

Idiopathic scoliosis

A structural spinal curvature for which cause has not been established.


An instrument used to measure the angle of thoracic prominence, referred to a as angle of trunk rotation (ATR).

Infantile scoliosis

A curvature of the spine that develops before three years of age.

Juvenile scoliosis 

Scoliosis developing between the ages of three and ten years.


A structural scoliosis associated with increased roundback.


A posterior convex angulation of the spine as evaluated on a side view of the spine. Contract to lordosis


A lateral curvature of the spine associated with increased swayback.


An anterior angulation of the spine in the sagittal plane. Contrast to kyphosis.

Lumbar curve 

A spinal curvature whose apex is between the first and fourth lumbar vertebrae (also know as lumbar scoliosis).



Pertaining to the lumbar and sacral regions of the back.

Lumbosacral curve 

A lateral curvature with its apex at the fifth lumbar vertebrae or below (also know as lumbosacral scoliosis).

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 

Uses radiofrequency pulses on tissues in a magnetic field and displays images without the use of ionizing radiation.

Neural monitoring 

A test that measures signals from nerves of the spinal cord. This monitoring is typically done in most spine surgeries.

Neuromuscular scoliosis 

A form of scoliosis caused by a neurological disorder of the central nervous system or muscle.

Nonstructural curve 

Description of a spinal curvature or scoliosis that does not have fixed residual deformity.


Bony process projecting backward from the body of a vertebra, which connects with the lamina on either side.

Posterior fusion 

A technique of stabilizing two or more vertebrae by bone grafting.

Primary curve

The first or earliest curve to appear.

Risser sign

Used to indicate spinal maturity, this refers to the appearance of a crescentic line of bone formation which appears across the top of each side of the pelvis.


Curved triangular bone at the base of the spine, consisting of five fused vertebrae known as sacral vertebrae. The sacrum articulates with the last lumbar vertebra and laterally with the pelvic bones.


A proprietary name for an inclinometer used in measuring trunk rotation.


Lateral deviation of the normal vertical line of the spine which, when measured by X-ray, is greater than ten degrees. Scoliosis consists of a lateral curvature of the spine with rotation of the vertebrae within the curve.

Spinal instrumentation

Metal implants fixed to the spine to improve spinal deformity while the fusion matures. This includes a wide variety of rods, hooks, wires and screws used in various combinations.


An inflammatory disease of the spine.


An anterior displacement of a vertebra on the adjacent lower vertebra.

Structural curve 

A segment of the spine that has fixed lateral curvature.

Thoracic curvature 

Any spinal curvature in which the apex of the curve is between the second and eleventh thoracic vertebrae.

Thoracic insufficiency syndrome

The chest or the thorax, made up of the rib cage, sternum, and spine, is unable to support lung growth and normal respiratory function. The thorax needs adequate space for the lungs to grow. For the thorax to function properly, there must be an ideal volume for age, the ribs must be formed normally, and the diaphragm, a thin muscle at the base of the thorax, must contract and relax properly.

Thoracolumbar curve 

Any curvature that has its apex at the twelfth thoracic or first lumbar vertebra.

Thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO) 

A type of brace incorporating the thoracic and lumbar spine.


A diagnostic test that utilizes energy waves to produce images of deep, soft tissue structures.

Vertebral column 

The flexible supporting column of vertebrae separated by discs and bound together by ligaments.


The use of electromagnetic radiation to produce a 2-dimentional image of a part of the musculoskeletal system.

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. 

Planning for Surgery

From free valet parking at the front door to personalized follow-up care during your child’s recovery, we want every aspect of your experience at Children’s Mercy to be beyond your expectations.

Read about how to prepare your child for scheduled surgery, what to expect when you arrive, and resources available while you’re here.

Pediatric anesthesia at Children's Mercy

At Children’s Mercy, a pediatric anesthesiologist is an active member of your child’s care team before, during and after their surgery or procedure.

We administer anesthesia for more than 27,000 kids per year—that’s 74 per day—so our team is experienced at finding just-right doses of medication for kids of all sizes. 

Consultation clinics

Spine consultation clinic

The spine consultation clinic was formed in response to the large number of consultation requests for patients with suspected scoliosis. The additional clinic is staffed by nurse practitioners so that we are able to schedule and evaluate new spine patients in a timely manner. There are specific patient criteria designated for these patients as well as a consultation form to complete prior to an appointment being made, in addition to a general new patient form.  During the child’s appointment, patients will receive a thorough evaluation, including spine radiographs and x-rays of their hand and elbow for bone age.  Patients leave clinic with a diagnosis and a plan for appropriate treatment, follow up care, and surgical consultation request if indicated. 

Telemedicine clinic

Telemedicine is available through our spine clinic which provides the ability for interactive healthcare using modern technology and telecommunication. Live, real-time visits allow face-to-face interaction and examination with the patient, family and the provider from a distance. Ask your provider if this service is suitable for your visit and/or available from your location. We offer Telemedicine clinics in the following locations: 

St. Joseph
802 North Riverside Blvd. 
Plaza 1 Medical Building, Suite 105
St. Joseph, MO 64501

3333 McIntosh Circle Dr., Suite 6
Joplin, MO 64804