By: Maria Fontanazza
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), a condition that causes the spine to curve sideways, is stressful and debilitating, hindering the activity and well being of tens of thousands of children worldwide. AIS affects about 2% of the pediatric population, with 1 in 1000 cases requiring surgery (surgery is recommended when the spinal curve progresses such that it needs correction, which is generally at 40 to 60 degrees), according to Ted Bird, chairman of the board at Israel-based ApiFix, Ltd., a company developing technology to treat AIS. Bird adds that globally, the number of children who have spinal curves that require surgery approaches 40,000; about 7500 of those children live in the United States. The condition is more prevalent in teenage girls.
Spinal fusion is the current gold standard for treating AIS. Considered major surgery, the procedure can be fairly traumatic for children, as it can involve the permanent fusion of 10 to 12 vertebrae, resulting in a reduced rate of mobility, which is particularly concerning in a population that is still physically developing. In addition, the fused parts of the spine stop developing altogether.