How low can you go? Implant density in posterior spinal fusion converted from growing constructs for early onset scoliosis

Pediatric Spine Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study design: Retrospective, multicenter comparative. Objectives: Our purpose was to compare early onset scoliosis (EOS) patients treated with ultra-low, low, and high implant density constructs when undergoing conversion to definitive fusion. Summary of background data: Larson et al. demonstrated that implant density (ID) at fusion does not correlate with outcomes in the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, but did not address growth-friendly graduates. Methods: EOS patients treated with growth-friendly constructs converted to fusion between 2000 and 2017 were reviewed from a multicenter database. ID was defined as number of pedicle screws, hooks, and sublaminar/bands per level fused. Patients were divided into ultra-low ID (< 1.3), low (≥ 1.3 and < 1.6), and high ID (≥ 1.6). Exclusion criteria: < 2 years follow-up from fusion or inadequate radiographs. Results: A total of 152 patients met inclusion criteria with 39 (26%) patients in the high ID group, 33 (22%) patients in the low ID group, and 80 (52%) in the ultra-low ID group. Groups were similar in operative time (p = 0.61), pre-fusion major curve (p = 0.71), mean number of levels fused (p = 0.58), clinical follow-up (p = 0.30), and radiographic follow-up (p = 0.90). Patients in the low ID group (11.6 ± 1.5 years) were slightly younger at the time of definitive fusion than patients in the ultra-low ID group (12.9 ± 2.2 years) and high ID group (12.5 ± 1.7 years) (p = 0.009). There was significantly more blood loss in the high ID group than the other two groups (high ID: 946.8 ± 606.0 mL vs. low ID: 733.9 ± 434.5 mL and ultra-low ID: 617.4 ± 517.2 mL; p = 0.01), but there was no significant difference with regard to percent of total blood volume lost (high ID: 59.3 ± 48.7% vs. low ID: 54.5 ± 37.5% vs. ultra-low ID: 51.7 ± 54.9%; p = 0.78). There was a difference in initial improvement in major curve between the groups (high ID: 21.6° vs. low ID: 18.0° vs. ultra-low ID: 12.6°; p = 0.01). However, during post-fusion follow-up, correction decreased 7.1° in the high ID group, 2.6 in the low ID group, and 2.8 in the ultra-low ID group (p = 0.19). At final follow-up, major curve correction from pre-fusion was similar between groups (high ID: 14.5° vs. low ID: 15.5° vs. ultra-low ID: 9.7°, p = 0.14). At final follow-up, there was no difference in T1–T12 length gain (p = 0.85), T1–S1 length gain (p = 0.68), coronal balance (p = 0.56), or sagittal balance (p = 0.71). The revision rate was significantly higher in the ultra-low ID group (13.8%; 11/80) versus the high ID group (2/39; 5.1%) and low ID group (0/33; 0%) (p = 0.04). Conclusions: Although an ID < 1.3 in growth-friendly graduates produces similar outcomes with regard to curve correction and spinal length gain as low and high ID, this study suggests that an ID < 1.3 is associated with an increased revision rate. Level of evidence: III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1479-1488
Number of pages10
JournalSpine deformity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Early onset scoliosis
  • Growing rod conversion
  • Implant complication
  • Implant density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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