Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Spinal fusion in children with spina bifida: influence on ambulation level and functional abilities

Schoenmakers MA, Gulmans VA, Gooskens RH, Pruijs JE, Helders PJ. Spinal fusion in children with spina bifida: influence on ambulation level and functional abilities. European Spine Journal. 2005 May;14(4):415-22. Epub 2004 Jul 16.

The aim of this study was to determine the influence of spinal fusion on ambulation and functional abilities in children with spina bifida for whom early mobilization was stimulated. Ten children (three males and seven females) with myelomeningocele were prospectively followed. Their mean age at operation was 9.3 years (standard deviation (SD): 2.4). Spinal curvature was measured according to Cobb. Pelvic obliquity and trunk decompensation were measured as well. The ambulation level was scored according to Hoffer, and functional abilities, as well as the amount of caregiver assistance, were documented using the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory. All patients were assessed before surgery and three times after surgery, with a total follow-up duration of 18 months after surgery. After spinal fusion, magnitude of primary curvature decreased significantly (p=0.002). Pelvic obliquity and trunk decompensation did not change. In spite of less immobilization as compared with other reported experiences, ambulation became difficult in three out of four patients who had been able to ambulate prior to surgery. Functional abilities and amount of caregiver assistance concerning self-care (especially regarding dressing upper and lower body, and self-catheterization) and mobility (especially regarding transfers) showed a nonsignificant trend to deterioration within the first 6 months after surgery, but recovered afterwards. From pre-surgery to 18 months after surgery, functional skills on self-care showed borderline improvement (p=0.07), whereas mobility did not (p=0.2). Mean scores on caregiver assistance improved significantly on self-care (p=0.03), and borderline on mobility (p=0.06), meaning that less caregiver assistance was needed compared with pre-surgery. The complication rate was high (80%). In conclusion, within the first 6 months after spinal fusion, more caregiver assistance is needed in self-care and mobility. It takes about 12 months to recover to pre-surgery level, while small improvement is seen afterwards. After spinal fusion, ambulation often becomes difficult, especially in exercise walkers. These findings are important for health-care professionals, in order to inform and prepare the patients and their parents properly for a planned spinal fusion.

PMID: 15258836

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