Soon after Milan and Isabella DiMartino were born, the twins were diagnosed with a rare blood disorder that they knew would always make the need for surgery particularly challenging. But a year-and-a-half ago the girls, now active 13-year-old twins who love ice skating and animals, were both diagnosed with sudden onset scoliosis, a condition that has left them with spines that are rapidly curving and which will eventually displace their organs. Knowing that any surgery would be a high risk because of their blood disorder, the families spent several months investigating and undergoing non-invasive scoliosis treatments in Miami, near their Wellington, Florida home. But after traction chair sessions, daily physical therapy, special weighted equipment and wearing braces for 16 to 18 hours per day, the family realized that the situation was getting worse and sought help in Philadelphia and New York. Soon they will be undergoing surgery.
According to the girls’ parents, Melissa and Anthony, the S curve that the girls have are nearly identical, measuring 82 degrees at the top of the spine and 90 degrees at the bottom. Making matters more frightening is the fact that as the condition worsens, the girls’ ribs are becoming displaced and their oxygen levels are being compromised. The spine surgeons that they met with advised that kin light of the girls’ condition, the surgery that would normally be employed is not appropriate: standard scoliosis surgical treatment uses metal rods and screws to fuse the spine into position, but because the girls are still quite small and have a lot more growing to do, the better choice is a procedure referred to as a “hybrid”. The hybrid surgery fuses the upper spine (thoracic) while the lower spine (lumbar) will have an anterior scoliosis correction that uses a special cord and screws to allow for flexibility and continued growth.
It is expected that each girl’s surgery will last for ten hours and involve a team of surgeons, as well as a hematology team trained in addressing the requirements of their blood disorder. They will require hospital rehabilitation for at least one week, and then an additional week in New York before they are able to return home. Though the recovery is expected to be slow and painful, the parents are hopeful about the outcome, and so are the girls. Speaking of the impact of the surgery on her sister, Isabella said, “I don’t want her to go through it because I don’t want her to be hurt too, but it is nice to have someone there.” Their father, Milan, simply looks forward to the future when, he says, “We won’t have to think about scoliosis anymore.”
Scoliosis is just one of the many conditions that our spine surgery practice in New Jersey is able to help our patients with. To set up an appointment with our experienced surgeon, contact our office today.