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Old 17-09-2011, 06:35 PM
Robbo Robbo is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2011
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Default Harrington Rods in for over 20 years

Hi.. I'm new to this forum and have not had contact with a scoliosis specialist for a long time, so really just seeking a general indication from a medical professional about what to expect in the coming years. I'm 35, female, and the Harrington rods were installed when i was 13 up in Brisbane. I was diagnosed at 5 and wore the Milwalkee brace from age 6 until the op.

I've had the rods in for over 20 years now, and to date, i'm still healthy, active and have had virtually no pain or problems except a few nerve damage issues that may or may not be related to my spinal condition - my local GP is calling the tests that have been done 'inconclusive'... (mostly just pins and needles in my extremities, as well as 'dead' numbness on my hands and fingers that come and go throughout the course of the day).

I've read a few forums on other websites and personal stories of others that have had the rods in for a long time period, so i really just want to know what to expect. I am aware that there is arthritis above and below the fixation points that showed up in xrays over 10 years ago.. but no other problems to date.

Also.. i have made a decision to not have children due to not wishing to be responsible for potentially passing my condition onto a child (my husband also has siblings with the condition) and there is a high likelihood of this occuring. I have noticed there are two blood tests that are now possibly available for early detection.. if i was to change my mind and go down that road, what age is appropriate to begin screening and what treatment is now available for very young children if they are found to have this condition?

Thanks in advance
Old 26-09-2011, 05:43 AM
Robbo Robbo is offline
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Default Re: Harrington Rods in for over 20 years

Hi Dr S.. no response to date to my above post, so I guess I am really just interested in finding out what sort of early intervention treatment is now available to small children if they are found to have the condition, or if they would be highly likely to have it.

I have no children as yet, but am considering it, however both myself (obviously) and my husband have strong history of scoliosis in our families.

I am assuming that children are not braced from such a young age any longer, and that treatment is more exercise orientated?

Any feedback or assistance on where to look for up to date information would be appreciated.
Old 04-10-2011, 05:34 PM
Dr Scoliosis Dr Scoliosis is offline
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 187
Default Re: Harrington Rods in for over 20 years


In answer to your question regarding the genetics of scoliosis, the following points can be made.
  1. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) has a strong genetic predisposition. For a woman with a scoliosis greater than 15 degrees, the risk of a daughter developing the condition is 25%. The risk in a son is much less. As your scoliosis developed as a much younger child, it would be classified as early onset or juvenile scoliosis. This is a much rarer condition. Whilst the genetics of this disorder are not defined, the likelihood of a parent passing it on to a child is far lower than in AIS.
  2. A number of genes have been detected that seem to play a role in the development of AIS. There are preliminary studies looking into those genes' significance. At this early stage, testing is being done on girls with scoliosis to see if carrying one or more of these genes can predict whether their curve will worsen or not with remaining growth. This can guide treatment, such as bracing.
  3. There is no test currently available that can be done either on an embryo or on a child that can determine if they will develop scoliosis. In any case, carrying certain "scoliosis genes" does not mean that someone will develop a curve. For example, in studies looking at identical twins (who are genetically identical), if one twin has a scoliosis, the chance of the other sibling developing it is between 13% and 73%. There are other factors at work that may trigger the condition. There are many theories. None give a complete explanation.
  4. Given that there is scoliosis on both your and your husband's side of the family, the chances of the condition occurring in your children are higher. As stated above, in AIS the risk to a daughter is around 25% and to a son approximately 5%. However, even if a curve develops in adolescence, the chance of needing treatment (brace or surgery) is low - between 1 in 100 to 1 in 1000. In families facing these concerns, I recommend to parents that they check their children every 6 to 12 months with the Forward Bend Test. If they see a rib prominence, then they should be seen by their local doctor. X-rays and referral to a specialist may be needed. There is an Australia-wide directory of specialists on our website.
  5. Treatment for very young children still relies on bracing and/or casting. Milwaukee braces are rarely used these days. Surgery is indicated if other treatment has not been effective. In children under 10, various telescopic rod systems have been developed that allow the spine to continue growing. In children over that age, spinal fusion, using dual rods and multiple anchors to the spine are used. These have many advantages over the Harrington system. Surgery for scoliosis remains complex but less of an ordeal than it was in previous decades.
  6. Whilst you seem to be functioning well, with minimal symptoms, I would recommend seeing a scoliosis surgeon so your current situation could be assessed. X-rays would be helpful to look at the fused section of your spine and overall alignment. The surgeon would also be able to discuss the concerns you have raised here.
Hope this has been helpful.

Dr Scoliosis
Old 04-10-2011, 06:56 PM
Robbo Robbo is offline
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Default Re: Harrington Rods in for over 20 years

Thank you.. very helpful actually.. I appreciate the time you took to answer my questions so precisely.

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