The Spine Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), part of the Division of Orthopedics, is one of the largest multidisciplinary programs of its kind in the world. Each year, this program provides comprehensive evaluation and treatment to thousands of children, from newborns to teens, with common and complex spinal deformities, trauma-related spinal conditions, benign and malignant musculoskeletal tumors, genetic cervical spine conditions, and other conditions that affect the spine.

At CHOP, diagnosis and care of children with spinal deformities begins as early as possible to ensure optimal treatment and outcomes. We employ the full spectrum of diagnostic testing, including EOS imaging, a newly FDA-approved technology that creates 3-D models while a child is in an upright or standing position. This advanced tool provides better image quality due to weight-bearing positioning and delivers a much lower radiation dose than that of computed radiography X-ray and basic CT scans.

Treatment of each child is handled on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the severity of the spinal condition, where it occurs in the spine, the child’s age and stage of growth, as well as any other related medical issues. Surgical and nonsurgical treatments are available based on a child’s specific condition and needs.

CHOP’s Spine Program surgeons include John P. Dormans, MD, FACS; John M. Flynn, MD; David A. Spiegel, MD; Wudbhav N. Sankar, MD; Robert M. Campbell Jr., MD; Keith D. Baldwin, MD, MPH, MSPT.; Denis S. Drummond, MD; Malcolm L. Ecker, MD; and Helen M. Horstmann, MD.

The team performs more than 3,000 orthopedic surgeries a year, including more than 250 surgeries specifically on children with spinal deformities related to scoliosis. Spine surgeries offered include posterior spine fusion, growing rods, and vertical expandable prosthetic titanium ribs (VEPTR), a technique invented by Campbell.

Standardized postoperative clinical pathways ensure continued quality of care and have led to significant reductions in the length of hospital stays, more efficient management of hospitalized patients, and better outcomes. Patients also benefit from an all-inclusive facility with an orthotics program that fits children with custom designed halo vests and other braces, and a pediatric rehabilitation center that offers inpatient and outpatient therapies for orthopedic patients.

Orthopedic surgeons, physicians and researchers at CHOP continue to investigate new diagnostic tools, treatment approaches, and ways to make surgery safer for all children with orthopedic conditions. Ongoing research focuses on the etiology of scoliosis while other research efforts promise to help us predict spine conditions and treat them before many of the symptoms begin.

“Our team continues to forge innovations that improve our ability to diagnose spinal conditions earlier and prevent their progression so they cause minimal interruption to childhood,” says Dormans. “That’s our goal above all else: to return children to their lives, sports and other activities essential to childhood as safely and as soon as possible.”