It goes without saying that the year 2020 was like no other for our nation, and it was no exception for the Division of Orthopaedics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). As we confronted the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital quickly pivoted to find the safest, most effective ways to continue caring for pediatric orthopaedic patients as we navigated these uncharted waters.

COVID-19 prompted us to reorganize our office staff and clinical work teams, maximize telemedicine and engage with our colleagues and peers via virtual educational conferences and meetings. We optimized our nurse navigator program to communicate promptly and effectively with our national and international families. And June 2020 was the busiest, highest-volume month of orthopaedic surgery in CHOP’s history.

While the pandemic was arguably the driving force of 2020, the year was also marked by progress and innovation. Here, we take a moment to celebrate some highlights as we look to the next chapter of advancing pediatric orthopaedic care:

Pioneering sport medicine research and treatment

A $5 million gift from the Bisignano family to create the Distinguished Endowed Chair in Sports Medicine for Theodore J. Ganley, MD, who leads CHOP’s Sports Medicine and Performance Center. The funding will allow the launch of cutting-edge clinical and basic science research studies, and support personnel to facilitate rapid access for injured athletes.

Frontier grant for concussion research

Our Minds Matter Concussion Program, let by Christina L. Master, MD, FAAP, was designated a Frontier Program, a CHOP initiative that recognizes and supports programs conducting visionary research that translates to cutting-edge clinical care. The program is investigating exciting innovations in pediatric concussion diagnosis and treatment, including a recent study showing a hand-held device could someday provide a fast, objective method to diagnose concussions in youth athletes.

Innovations in assessment of thoracic insufficiency syndrome

The Wyss/Campbell Center for Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome continues to thrive under the leadership of Patrick J. Cahill, MD. Innovations launched in the past couple of years are now coming to fruition. A report on the CTIS Dynamic Lung MRI to assess pulmonary function won Best Paper award at the International Congress of Early Onset Scoliosis, and the Best Basic Science Paper at the Scoliosis Research Society. Read more.

Ranked #1 in orthopaedics

CHOP Orthopaedics was honored to be named the #1 Pediatric Orthopaedic program in the nation for 2020-2021 by U.S. News & World Report, based on reputation, case volume, and quality/safety. We were proud to see many of our longstanding quality and patient care initiatives recognized in this year’s survey, including dedicated spine teams, our Rapid Recovery Program, reduction of blood loss and infection in spine surgery, and timely fracture care with a designated ortho trauma room each day.

Clinical research breakthroughs

We had one of our most productive clinical research stretches ever in the early days of COVID-19 as our physicians and surgeons completed numerous research projects and shared our results in peer-reviewed journals like the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, among others.

Some research was specific to COVID-19 such as our framework for prioritizing procedures as elective surgeries resumed after COVID-19 and a study on the uptick in at-home pediatric fractures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other research was condition-specific, including how a multidisciplinary approach leads to better outcomes in treating infants with brachial plexus birth injuries, and how a specific assessment of the eye could someday help properly diagnose and monitor concussions in young athletes.

Review our annual research report for more highlights from the past year.

More on the horizon

There’s so much more going on at CHOP Orthopaedics. In the years ahead, we will continue to pursue pediatric research into all types of genetic and acquired orthopaedic conditions. We will pursue new diagnostic tools, innovative treatments and therapies and monitor long-term outcomes. We remain committed to helping children live their fullest lives – no matter their condition – and get back to being a kid.

John M. Flynn, MD, is Chief of the Division of Orthopaedics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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