Back to the drawing board: researchers push for scoliosis breakthrough
Published Saturday, March 30, 2013 9:21PM EDT
MONTREAL - Caroline Villeneuve, 16, learned the crooked truth about scoliosis the hard way.
Three years ago, Villeneuve was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, a variation of the spinal deformity that becomes evident with the onset of adolescence. About two-thirds of scoliosis diagnoses come as a child approaches their teen years.
News of her condition initially came as a shock.
“I was walking down the hall and my mom looks at me and asks, ‘Are you bent sideways? Are you standing up straight?’ I said, ‘Yeah, why?’ She said, ‘You look crooked all of a sudden.’”
Caroline was fitted with a corrective spinal brace which she wore for nine months to attempt to realign her spine.
“I was in so much pain,” she told CTV Montreal. “I was just so tired of having to deal with it every single day.”
She eventually opted to ditch the brace in favour of invasive surgery. Her five-hours under the knife left her with a 12-inch scar but the surgery corrected the curve and she now has a strong, pain-free spine.
She also now sports metallic scaffolding along her vertebrae, in the form of metal rods and 20 screws.
And while the surgery was a godsend, medics are researching ways to make it easier.
Carl-Eric Aubin of Ste. Justine’s Hospital is working along with Polytechnique researchers to modify the surgical procedure to make it less invasive.
“Now with computers and computer models, we are able to simulate a surgery before performing it. With such tools, it’s possible to optimize the scenario and the planning of the surgery,” said Aubin.
Their research into spinal biomechanics has shown enough promise to merit a five-year renewal of funding.
Villeneuve’s mother is happy that the ordeal is largely a thing of the past.
“She pretty much got her life back,” said Catherine Villeneuve. “When you deal with scoliosis as a teenager, it takes away part of who you are. You wear a back brace, it’s hot, there’s activities you can’t do, there’s pain. The surgery has given her back her life.”
Caroline, as a school project, has penned a survival guide to dealing with scoliosis.
She counsels perseverance for those who are in a similar situation.
“If you have a negative outlook on life, you can be complaining all the time but it’s not going to get you anywhere. You have to push through it. Life is going to keep going on.”