Around one billion people across the world live with spinal pain. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting all age groups, from children to the elderly. The treatment of spinal disorders is often a complex process involving specialists from various medical fields. Acibadem Maslak Comprehensive Spine Center in Turkey is a trusted leader in spine care, welcoming patients from 52 different countries. The center provides advanced diagnostic and treatment options for a broad spectrum of spinal diseases, from spine deformities to degenerative disc conditions, spinal tumors, infections, and spinal cord injuries. A highly advanced procedure performed at Acibadem is Vertebral Body Tethering (VBT) for the treatment of scoliosis in children and adolescents. Unlike traditional surgery with spinal fusion, VBT corrects the curvature without causing loss of spinal mobility. Acibadem Maslak Comprehensive Spine Center was the first to apply the new method outside of the USA, where it was first invented. For the last 7 years, more than 150 patients have been successfully treated with Vertebral Body Tethering at Acibadem, which makes it one of the most experienced centers around the world.
Scoliosis is the most common spinal deformity detected in childhood. When the spine curves sideways, this is called scoliosis. It affects 3 in every 100 adolescents, boys and girls, and the onset is usually between 10 and 15 years of age. In nearly 8 out of every 10 cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is usually called idiopathic scoliosis. In most cases, the curve is mild and does not require treatment. When the curvature develops over time and exceeds 45 degrees, it reduces the space within the chest and makes it difficult for the lungs and heart to function properly. For severe scoliosis, the standard treatment is surgery involving spinal fusion. The procedure stabilizes the spine with screws and rods, and it is highly effective. But fusion eliminates motion between fused vertebras and limits the remaining growth of the patient. For a specific group of scoliosis patients, Vertebral Body Tethering can be an alternative.
VBT is a minimally invasive procedure that reduces the recovery period after surgery. It is performed through 6 small incisions, between 1 and 3 cm in length, which can easily be concealed. The surgical area is visualized using a miniature camera inserted through the ports together with all thoracoscopic tools. During the surgery, vertebral body screws are placed in the curved area. Then a rope-like device called a tether is placed over the screws and tightened. The applied force results in deformity correction over time. In VBT, the curve is only partially corrected during the surgery. Afterward, spontaneous correction is achieved by the patient’s own growth. Since the spine is not fused, its flexibility and normal growth are preserved. A further advantage of this method is the fast return back to school within a week or two. Besides, the patient can engage in all types of sports 3 months after surgery.
However, Vertebral Body Tethering is not appropriate for all scoliosis patients. The best candidates are between 10 and 16 years of age, diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, with curvatures between 35 and 80 degrees, who are still growing. The correct assessment of the remaining growth potential is crucial for success.
The safe application of the VBT technique requires expertise from several medical specialties. Spinal surgery is usually associated with specialists in orthopedics. Yet, the surgical field is very close to large vessels during this procedure and a cardiovascular surgeon is also needed. A thoracic surgeon helps to prepare the ports for access. A neurologist monitors the process to avoid damage to vital functions. Working as a team allows a lower risk and better clinical results. Multidisciplinary approach is a routine practice at Acibadem, and that is one of the reasons why it is one of only a handful of medical centers in the world successfully performing the VBT procedure. The surgery is applied by the team of the renowned Prof. Ahmet Alanay, an active member of the most respected scientific societies in this field internationally. Moreover, at Acibadem Maslak Comprehensive Spine Center, the patients get access to the unique know-how, comprehensive care and the latest technology of a world-class center of excellence. During spinal surgeries, high-tech equipment helps to improve safety and reduce the risk of injury. Spinal navigation makes it easier to perform safe and secure placement of screws. Neuromonitoring allows surgeons to identify a potential injury caused by the surgical procedure and eliminates the risk of paralysis to a great extent. 3D printing makes it possible to produce an exact copy of a patient’s spine and simulate the operation on the model, thus reducing the risk of complications.
Spinal deformities like scoliosis and kyphosis are usually associated with childhood and adolescence. However, they are often seen later in life due to a sedentary lifestyle and increased life span. It is estimated that spine deformities are encountered in 60 out of every 100 people over the age of 60. Many other conditions can affect the spine anywhere from the neck to the lower back, disturbing the quality of life. Along with aging, spinal fractures and disc hernias are often faced. Acibadem Comprehensive Spine Center provides advanced surgical and non-surgical options for common and complex spine disorders in children and adults. The center performs more than 4000 outpatient consultations and over 300 surgeries per year. Minimally invasive surgical techniques are preferred whenever possible, to avoid potential risks and complications related to conventional surgery. A team approach that brings together experienced neurologists, orthopedists, surgeons, neurosurgeons, radiologists, anesthesiologists, orthotists, rehabilitation specialists is applied for comprehensive care and better outcomes.
Prof. Ahmet Alanay, Director of Acibadem Maslak Comprehensive Spine Center, Orthopedics & Traumatology Specialist commented:
“Our spine is like a bridge that carries two-thirds of our body weight. It has an important role in our healthy breathing and the function of our heart. Therefore, it is crucial for us to have a healthy spine. The Acibadem Maslak Comprehensive Spine Center offers diagnostic and treatment facilities for a wide spectrum of spinal diseases, including pediatric and adult spine deformities, scoliosis, kyphosis, vertebral slippage, spine injuries, and neck hernias. During all these advanced diagnostic and treatment procedures, we apply a multidisciplinary approach that includes all related specialists. This approach provides a rapid transfer of information between the sections. Thus we minimize the patient’s loss of time and proceed to the problem-solving phase. Do not forget: your spinal health is your life quality.”
Professor Ahmet Alanay, M.D, Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology, Chair of Acibadem Maslak Comprehensive Spine Center, has been chosen as President-elect of the EUROSPINE.
EUROSPINE, the leading Spine Society of Europe, is a dynamic, international society of 8600 spine specialists from 80 countries who represent the full spectrum of spine care disciplines.