If you suffer from scoliosis, you will probably have looked into the various treatment options for this condition. Today, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of one specific treatment method: spinal fusion surgery using Harrington rods.
What are Harrington rods?
Developed in the early 1960s by Dr Paul Harrington, the Harrington rod is a straight rod that contains a ratcheting mechanism. These rods are used in spinal fusion surgery to reduce the curvature of the patient’s spine.
The rod is positioned along the concavity (inside) of the spinal curve and attached to the spine using two hooks – one attached to a vertebra at the bottom of the curve and the other to a vertebra at top of the curve. Then, employing the ratcheting mechanism, the surgeon stretches the spine to straighten the curve and fuses into position.
Do Harrington rods help to correct scoliosis?
For 20 years, Harrington rods were seen at the ‘gold standard’ for spinal fusion surgery – if you underwent spinal fusion surgery before the year 2000, the surgeon most likely used Harrington rods. This procedure was routinely recommended for any patients with a spinal curve exceeding 45 degrees.
These days, however, there are a number of alternatives for scoliosis patients who require surgery. You can read about these more modern methods here.
Harrington rods have been successful in many cases of scoliosis, but they also come with a number of risks and limitations.
What are the risks and limitations of Harrington rods?
As with all surgical operations, there are risks involved with the procedure described above. This intrusive operation requires the surgeon to remove spinal discs and muscle so that the rod can be inserted and screwed onto the vertebrae. The spine is then bent forcefully and fused into that position. Infection is one possible complication – other potential risks include:
Furthermore, this surgery is not recommended for patients whose spines are still growing. Performing a spinal fusion on a growing child can lead to a number of complications, such as the Crankshaft phenomenon. As young spines continue to grow there is a chance the spinal curve will also change, which may mean the rod will end up causing further complications.
- Bending and breaking of the rod
- Hardware migration
- Flat back syndrome
What are the alternatives to surgery?
In some very severe cases, surgery is the only way to ensure that a spinal curve will not get any worse. In most cases, however, there are plenty of other scoliosis treatment methods available that do not involve intrusive, potentially risky surgical procedures.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we offer a non-surgical scoliosis treatment programme called ScolioGold therapy, which combines a number of effective techniques to improve patient’s condition. To see how effective non-surgical treatments can be, have a look at our results and see how we have reduced our patients’ Cobb angles without surgical intervention.
If you have any more questions about scoliosis surgery and how our non-surgical approach can help you with your back condition, please get in touch today.