Did you see the Scoliosis SOS team on TV earlier this week?
A Matter of Life and Debt is a BBC One documentary series that focuses on credit unions, responsible moneylenders, and the people whose lives have been transformed by ethical loans.
The third episode of A Matter of Life and Debt‘s current series aired on Wednesday (21 August 2019), and it featured a segment about our Clinic Principal Erika Maude and the loan that helped her to set up the Scoliosis SOS Clinic back in 2006.
Having been let down by a high-street bank, Erika instead sought assistance from Foundation East, a responsible lender that provides finance and support for businesses. They approved Scoliosis SOS for a loan of £50,000 – a sum that, thanks to the clinic’s instant success, was repaid within just nine months!
If you missed our appearance on A Matter of Life and Debt, don’t worry – you can watch it below!
More Media Coverage About Scoliosis SOS
Happy new year! 2019 was a truly momentous time for the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, so before we dive into the new decade, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at some of the highlights of the past 12 months:
- New clinics in Birmingham and Bristol! In November 2019, we opened two new scoliosis treatment centres in Birmingham and Bristol, UK. This means that, counting our flagship clinic in London, we now have 3 locations in total – and we’re planning to open more in the near future!
- Scoliosis SOS on BBC One! Back in August, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic was featured on BBC One’s A Matter of Life and Debt. The programme told the story of our founder, Erika Maude, and how she was able to set up the clinic with the financial assistance of responsible lenders Foundation East. If you missed A Matter of Life and Debt, don’t worry – here’s the clip:
- SOSORT Annual Meeting in San Francisco! In April 2019, several members of the Scoliosis SOS team crossed the Atlantic to attend the 14th annual SOSORT conference in San Francisco, USA. The event included a number of enlightening talks, including a presentation from our own Erika Maude on the cost-effectiveness of scoliosis-specific exercise programmes. Watch Erika’s presentation here.
And if you think that’s impressive, just wait! We’ve got lots of big things in store for 2020 – be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any news.
- A visit from an orthopaedic spinal surgeon! In February 2019, orthopaedic specialist Mr Darren Lui (pictured above centre) came to our London clinic to talk to our therapists and discuss the value of physiotherapy in treating scoliosis patients. Read more about his visit here.
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Earlier this week, Channel 4 aired a documentary called Save My Child. It focused on two young people with lifelong health conditions and their families’ efforts to raise the funds for private treatment.
One of the children featured was Mia, a 15-year-old girl with scoliosis. Here’s a clip from the programme:
Mia’s curved spine, along with the scoliosis brace that she had to wear for 23 hours a day, meant that she was in near-constant pain. At the start of Save My Child, we see Mia lying awake at night and struggling with everyday tasks like tying her shoelaces.
Frustrated with the long waiting lists for spinal fusion surgery – and fearing that Mia’s condition would only get worse with time – her family started researching alternatives. Eventually, they decided to travel to Turkey so that Mia could undergo vertebral body tethering (VBT) surgery.
The Channel 4 programme primarily focused on how Mia’s family managed to raise tens of thousands of pounds to pay for private surgery. What it didn’t do was take a critical look at the VBT procedure itself and how effective it actually is.
Is VBT a good alternative to spinal fusion surgery?
First of all, it’s important to note that VBT is a rather controversial topic here in the UK. It was the subject of much discussion at the recent British Scoliosis Society conference in Cardiff – many British families go abroad for VBT, with Germany and Turkey the most popular destinations, but in many cases there are no formal standards in place for this procedure. And if complications occur back home, the NHS must then pick up the cost of fixing an operation that was paid for privately in a different country!
Fortunately, the outcome for Mia was a positive one (“I’m a lot happier now,” she told Channel 4), but here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we’ve met a number of scoliosis patients who weren’t so lucky. One family came to see us after their daughter had undergone the VBT procedure in Turkey – they were concerned that she didn’t look any different, and in the end they signed her up for a ScolioGold treatment course, an option they had previously passed up in favour of the VBT route.
Potential complications of VBT
If you need another reason to think twice before going abroad for VBT surgery, we have met multiple scoliosis patients who ended up suffering from pleurisy after the procedure. This is a sharp pain in the chest that occurs when you take a deep breath.
Still other patients found that the tethering had been done on the wrong side of the spine, making their scoliosis worse and creating nerve complications.
Finally, it should be noted that the death rate for VBT is 3%. This is significantly higher than spinal fusion surgery.
A safer alternative to spinal fusion
While vertebral body tethering may become a more viable option in the future, there simply isn’t enough evidence of its effectiveness just yet (this is the main reason why VBT isn’t currently available on the NHS).
The Scoliosis SOS Clinic’s physiotherapy-based scoliosis treatment courses offer a non-invasive, low-risk alternative to scoliosis surgery. We have helped patients of all ages to manage their severe spinal curves and live happier, more active lives. On many occasions, our treatment programme has reduced the angle of the patient’s curvature to a point where they’re no longer a candidate for surgery at all!
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The USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it had approved its very first spinal tethering device for correcting idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents.
The Tether™ vertebral body tethering system is designed to help correct spinal curvatures in young patients whose bones have yet to fully mature.
Made up of titanium anchors, bone screws and set screws, along with a flexible polymer cord, the device aims to prevent further curve progression, theoretically eliminating the need for spinal fusion surgery.
What does this mean for young scoliosis patients in the USA?
Manufactured by Zimmer Biomet, the spinal tether device has been presented as something of a breakthrough in paediatric scoliosis management. It is an innovative treatment option that aims to improve quality of life for young patients with idiopathic scoliosis.
Dr Baron Lonner, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital, applauded the FDA’s decision, noting that vertebral body tethering (VBT) could become a “mainstream option for scoliosis treatment” in due course.
The Tether™ VBT system is designed to help young scoliosis patients with a Cobb angle of 30-65 degrees.
Idiopathic scoliosis in children
Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common form of scoliosis. The causes of idiopathic scoliosis are unknown (this is what the word ‘idiopathic’ means). It is typically diagnosed in children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18.
The most commonly-prescribed medical treatment for idiopathic scoliosis is bracing. If the brace does not successfully halt the progression of the patient’s spinal curve, surgery may be recommended.
Though often effective, the spinal fusion procedure can lead to problems of its own, with patients sometimes facing such issues as restricted motion and arthritis down the line.
The FDA’s decision to approve this new tethering device could give young scoliosis sufferers a new hope in tackling their spinal issues.
Is vertebral body tethering effective?
In June 2018, NHS England published a report titled Evidence Review: Vertebral Body Tethering for Treatment of Idiopathic Scoliosis.
This review examined the effectiveness of VBT and the complication rates associated with this treatment method.
Here are two key findings from NHS England’s report…
- 5 out of 25 patients required repeat surgery: “At skeletal maturity, Ames, Samdami et al reported 5 patients from the cohort of 25 requiring repeat surgery to loosen the tether in order to treat or prevent overcorrection (Ames, Samdani, & Betz, 2016).”
- In total, 44% of patients experienced some complications. In addition to the 5 patients who required repeat surgery (see above), another 5 experienced “transient thigh pain or numbness”, and there was 1 patient with “unresolved intercostal neuralgia“.
- There’s not yet enough evidence of VBT’s effectiveness: “It is not possible at present, given the lack of experimental studies, to confirm that this treatment is relatively effective, safe and acceptable when compared to standard care.”
Scoliosis treatment at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic
While the FDA’s decision may be welcome news to young scoliosis sufferers in the USA, vertebral body tethering still has a long way to go as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery, and it remains to be seen just how effective the Tether™ will be in the long term. Note also that this treatment method still requires the patient to undergo an operation.
If you’re seeking a less invasive option for yourself or a loved one with scoliosis, you may be interested in the treatment courses that we deliver here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, England. Our ScolioGold programme combines a variety of non-surgical methods to create a unique approach that is unlike anything offered elsewhere.
Better still, the ScolioGold method is constantly evolving in line with advances in the field of non-surgical treatment, ensuring that our therapeutic programme continues to deliver the best possible results.
Contact Scoliosis SOS to book a ScolioGold consultation >>