Twelve-year-old Audrey Fritts and her sister Emily, 14, were among the first patients to undergo the procedure.
"I used to take gymnastics and I had to stop 'cause it was hurting my back," says Audrey, who was diagnosed with scoliosis in kindergarten.
Scoliosis is a condition that causes spinal curvature and affects thousands of children nationwide. Just last month, her older sister Emily was told she had it, too.
"They took chest x-rays and saw that the spine was way curved," Emily says.
"They told me Emily had progressed so fast that I needed to do it within six months," says the girls' mother, Cindy Johnson.
Both girls needed surgery, but the timing was just right. The sisters are among the first in San Diego to undergo a new endoscopic technique that requires minimal incisions in the back.
Typical treatment for scoliosis requires an incision down the entire back. Dr. Peter Newton, Director of the Scoliosis Center at Children's Hospital in San Diego helped developed a new endoscopic technique that uses rods and screws inserted into six tiny portholes in the spine to fix its curvature.
|A model of the endoscopic treatment.|
The technique requires several small incisions on the chest, Dr. Newton explains. Muscles in the chest wall that work the shoulders are left uncut.
"They won't have the incision down their back, they won't have a scar, and the recovery is so much faster. There's a lot less pain," her mother says.
Not all patients are able to have this surgery, but it can be used to correct most cases of curvature.
Audrey and Emily had their surgery done one day apart. They agree the benefits of the procedure are obvious.
"I was afraid of feeling the bar on my spine, but you can't even feel it. It's like I never even had the surgery," Emily says.
After less than a week, the girls were able to walk out of the hospital and get back to playing soccer.