The Harrington rod was developed in the 1950s by Paul Harrington. It was a major advance in the treatment of scoliosis. For the first time, surgeons were able to use the distraction forces provided by the rod to hold the spine in a corrected position while the underlying spine fusion took place.
The vast majority of patients have had excellent results with Harrington rod instrumentation and fusion.However, a few patients develop low back and leg pain decades after their original scoliosis fusion surgery; these problems can also develop in patients who have been fused without the Harrington rod.
What is the cause of the pain? Depending upon the type of scoliosis, some patients require fusion of the lower lumbar spine to L4 or L5. In this situation, only the L4-5 and L5-S1 discs remain as mobile segments below the rigidly fused spine. Over many years, these remaining discs may degenerate and cause low back pain, or they may herniate and cause leg pain. Alternatively low back arthritis may occur, which can also cause back and leg pain.
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How can I avoid this problem?
1) Avoid obesity. This puts excessive strain on the lumbar spine.
2) Maintain an active exercise program that focuses on general and abdominal muscle strengthening. The abdominal muscles assist in protecting the lumbar spine disc structure. This program should be developed under the direction of a physician.
3) Maintain good dietary calcium intake. This is especially important for young women aged 20 to 30, so as to avoid osteoporosis later in life. Before taking multi-vitamins or supplements, your diet should evaluated by a physician.
4) Avoid osteoporosis. Consult your physician to see if you are at risk for osteoporosis, which can lead to spine fractures and increased scoliosis deformity.
5) Stop smoking. We have observed a reduction in pain for those patients who have been able to quit.
For those patients who have back and leg pain, consult your physician. Alternatively I have extensive experience with scoliosis patients. 90% of patients can obtain pain relief using treatments that do not require surgery. Approximately 10% may require surgery - please contact the office for details.