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Boy with scoliosis during rehabilitation

Children’s National first-use of anterior vertebral body tethering system for idiopathic scoliosis

Boy with scoliosis during rehabilitation

On Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, Children’s National Hospital performed the first anterior vertebral body tethering procedure for a child in the Washington, D.C., area. The device is a recently approved option for treating children with idiopathic scoliosis, the most common type of scoliosis. It allows for gradual correction of a spinal deformity through the natural growth of the spine, leading to improvements in spinal alignment while maintaining spinal flexibility.

In August 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first spinal tether system for pediatric patients called The Tether – Vertebral Body Tethering System. This device is attached to the spine during a minimally invasive thorascopic procedure performed by a multidisciplinary medical team, which includes orthopaedic surgery, thoracic surgery and anesthesia.

“This promising technology may help maintain the flexibility of the spine as it grows straighter over time,” says Matthew Oetgen, M.D., chief of Orthopaedics at Children’s National. “Novel devices like The Tether offer additional treatment options for idiopathic scoliosis, which have the potential to improve pediatric surgical outcomes and quality of life for children and adolescents with significant spinal deformities.”

The procedure at Children’s National brought together some the region’s best pediatric orthopaedic and thoracic surgeons, including Dr. Oetgen, Shannon Kelly, M.D., associate chief of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Timothy Kane, M.D., chief of General and Thoracic Surgery.

“Children’s National can offer these types of procedures because the hospital is home to many talented pediatric surgeons across specialties, many of whom are experts in minimally invasive techniques for children,” says Dr. Kane. “We collaborate together, often, because we know that’s the best way to continually improve the care we provide to children and their families.”

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis and can occur in children between age 10 and 18 or until they are fully grown. Spinal fusion surgery is the most common treatment for children with the most severe spine curvatures and continues to be the “gold standard” for surgical treatment of this condition. It takes about 3 months for a child or adolescent to fully recover from the procedure. While spinal fusion produces excellent and reproducible outcomes, in certain patients with less severe deformities and significant skeletal growth remaining, vertebral body tethering may offer some benefits over spinal fusion. In clinical trials, the spinal tether was shown to shorten recovery time and increase range of motion. Early diagnosis is vital to dictate which treatment will be most beneficial.

orthopaedics infographic

2020 at a glance: Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at Children’s National


The Children’s National Division of Orthopaedics is consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top programs in the nation.

Matt Oetgen talks about an x-ray

Nicotine-like anti-inflammatories may protect limbs, testicles from inflammatory damage after injury

Daniel Casella

Daniel Casella, M.D., is teaming up with Matthew Oetgen, M.D., MBA, for a POSNA-funded pre-clinical study of the anti-inflammatories varenicline and cytisine.

A new pre-clinical study will explore the use of anti-inflammatory medications to prevent the body’s inflammatory response from further damaging limbs after an injury restricts blood flow. Varenicline and cytisine, anti-inflammatories with similarities to nicotine, have shown early promise in similar pre-clinical laboratory studies of the testicles and will now be tested in arms and legs.

Matthew Oetgen, M.D., MBA, chief of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at Children’s National and Children’s pediatric urologist Daniel Casella, M.D., will jointly lead the new study entitled, “Modulation of the Injury Associated with Acute Compartment Syndrome,” which builds on Dr. Casella’s previous work with the two anti-inflammatory agents. Drs. Oetgen and Casella recently were awarded the Angela S.M. Kuo Memorial Award Research Grant to fund this research during the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America’s (POSNA) Annual Meeting.

“We are honored that this important research was selected by POSNA for support,” says Dr. Oetgen. “An arm or leg injury can trigger the body’s natural inflammatory response, causing severe swelling that restricts blood flow. Even after blood flow is restored, the inflammatory response can lead to permanent muscle or nerve damage or even loss of limb. This grant will give us the opportunity to truly explore the application of anti-inflammatories after injury and see if this approach can modulate the immune response to protect the limbs.”

If successful in the laboratory, the team hopes to expand this work to human clinical trials.

Matt Oetgen talks about an x-ray

“We are honored that this important research was selected by POSNA for support,” says Dr. Oetgen. “This grant will give us the opportunity to truly explore the application of anti-inflammatories after injury and see if this approach can modulate the immune response to protect the limbs.”

The Angela S.M. Kuo Memorial Award Research Grant is given each year to an outstanding investigator aged 45 or younger based on criteria including the study’s potential significance, impact, originality/innovation, the investigator’s track record and study feasibility. The award totals $30,000.

While at POSNA’s 2019 Annual Meeting, Dr. Oetgen and Children’s pediatric orthopaedic surgery colleagues also participated in podium presentations and poster sessions, including:

  • “Achieving Consensus on the Treatment of Pediatric Femoral Shaft Fractures,” Matthew Oetgen, M.D., MBA
  • “A Prospective, Multi-centered Comparative Study of Non-operative and Operative Containment Treatments in Children Presenting with Late-stage Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease,” Benjamin Martin, M.D.

The Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America is an organization of 1,400 surgeons, physicians, and allied health members dedicated to advancing musculoskeletal care for children and adolescents. The annual meeting presents the latest research and expert clinical opinion in pediatric orthopaedics through presentations, posters, and symposia. It was held May 15-18, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Megan Young

Orthopaedic Surgeon named 2019 LLRS Traveling Fellow

Megan Young

Megan Young, M.D.

Megan Young, M.D., has been named a 2019 Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Society (LLRS) Traveling Fellow.

The fellowship provides leading education in limb lengthening and reconstruction, trains future leaders of LLRS and establishes mentor relationships between current society members and new surgeons.

“We are beyond proud that Dr. Young was selected for this highly competitive opportunity,” says Matthew Oetgen, M.D., chief of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. “This is only the latest recognition Dr. Young has received for her growing expertise in limb lengthening and complex lower extremity reconstructions.”

During her fellowship in August 2019, Dr. Young will travel to multiple limb lengthening and reconstruction surgical centers to share ideas and exchange best practices with orthopaedic surgeons at every career stage – from trainees to seasoned veterans. She will present her key takeaways from the experience at the society’s 2020 annual meeting.

Dr. Young has a special interest in caring for children with lower extremity deformity and limb length discrepancies and has developed a Limb Lengthening program at Children’s, which offers patients and their families comprehensive treatment options for these complex conditions using leading edge technology.