CHEO doctors complete Ontario first in scoliosis treatment
OTTAWA -- An Ontario teenager has become the first in the province to undergo a new and innovative scoliosis surgery performed by doctors at CHEO.
"Really this opportunity has been pretty life-changing," said Olivia Koot, 17. "It was pretty crazy, I wasn't expecting that much correction."
Koot was diagnosed with the condition that results in a curve in the spine in 2016. She wore a restrictive, hard plastic brace for 18 hours a day hoping to correct the 24-degree curve, but it didn't work.
"She was noticeably folded in on one side," said Koot's mom Julia.
The most common surgery scoliosis patients typically undergo involves a spinal fusion—where metal rods and screws hold the spine as straight as possible.
"It is really scary to hear that your child is going to need rods put in their back with 20 plus screws," said Julia.
Doctors at CHEO presented the family with another option called ApiFix, which is a new procedure that means a quicker recovery and better long-term flexibility for the patient.
"It uses a ratchet device that allows you to distract the spine, to stretch out the scoliosis and correct it without fusing it which is quite different than a lot of the stuff that has been used in the past," said Dr. Kevin Smit, a CHEO orthopedic surgeon & clinical investigator. "To use this kind of technology is exciting and we're incorporating it into some research that we're doing to make sure that it's a safe and viable option for teenagers with scoliosis to use."
Koot's family says she was up walking within hours of the surgery.
"It's an option that when measured against the other options is so much better," said Olivia's father Dan. "A month after surgery she's going up and down stairs, she's back in her room and it's just night and day versus what the traditional options are."
Dr. Smit said donations made to CHEO are instrumental in funding ground-breaking research like this.
"Without that support we can't look into the long-term outcomes of these patients, we can't do the research and register them into these spine registries," Dr. Smit said. "Without them we can't have some of the equipment we use to do these amazing surgeries on kids and teenagers."
Koot and her family say they're thankful to CHEO for the care they received, and that she qualified to have this kind of procedure.
"To have an option where you can maintain some flexibility and you're not affecting the whole spine for a curve that's in a certain part it really is hopefully something more people can experience," said Dan.
"Our experience with CHEO was phenomenal from beginning to end," said Julia.
Koot's case will now be brought to an international research group to help advance innovation in treatment for other patients like her.
"When we fuse the spine it puts a lot more pressure on the bottom which can lead to arthritis and pain potentially and hopefully by not fusing it we'll give her a very long and happy life with her spine," Dr. Smit said.
With progress being made every day, Koot said she looks forward to getting back into sports with no pain.
"I'm feeling a lot better, I even touched my toes and stuff," she said. "Now that things are open again I've already been thinking of getting a membership to the pool again."