Spine deformities in rare congenital syndromes: Clinical issues

Robert M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Study Design.: A focused review of the literature with regard to the important system abnormalities of patients with spinal deformities associated with exotic congenital syndromes with additional data from the author's own experience in assessment of patients with rare syndromes treated for thoracic insufficiency syndrome. Objectives.: The objectives of this study are to emphasize important medical considerations that influence the choice of surgical treatment of spinal deformity in patients with exotic congenital syndromes and point out preoperative strategies that reduce treatment morbidity and mortality of these patients. Summary of Background Data.: Individual experience is limited in the treatment of spine abnormality in rare exotic syndromes and the medical aspects of these syndromes that may impact spinal treatment are seldom discussed in detail in the orthopedic literature. For a successful outcome in the treatment of spinal deformity in these unique patients, a working knowledge of the unique pitfalls in their medical care is necessary in order to avoid morbidity and mortality during their treatment. Methods.: The literature was reviewed for 6 exotic congenital syndromes with known or unreported spinal abnormalities and the author's personal 22-years experience of the treatment of thoracic insufficiency syndrome in the relevant congenital syndromes was summarized. Results.: Children with Marfan syndrome and spinal deformity may have serious cardiac abnormalities. Spontaneous dissection of the aortic root is a clear danger and patients should be monitored by serial echocardiograms. Prophylactic cardiac surgery may be necessary before spinal surgery is to be performed. Patients with Jeune syndrome have a high rate of proximal cervical stenosis and should undergo screening with cervical spine films at birth. Significant stenosis or instability may require decompression and cervical-occipital fusion. Arthrogryposis may be associated with a severe scoliosis and jaw contracture may make intubation difficult. Larsen syndrome may have early onset scoliosis that is very rigid and requires early intervention. Cervical kyphosis and subluxation may be lethal in these patients and screening radiographs are important. Upper airway abnormalities are an anesthesia concern. Jarcho-Levin syndrome is a thoracic volume depletion deformity due to shortness of the thorax, either a spondylocostal dysostosis variant or spondylothoracic dysplasia. The former has a chaotic congenital scoliosis with varied combination of missing and fused ribs. Although spondylocostal dysostosis has a benign reputation in the literature for respiratory complications, respiratory insufficiency is nevertheless common and 1 death is known from respiratory failure. Spondylothoracic dysplasia seldom has significant scoliosis, but has a mortality rate approaching 50% from respiratory complications due to thoracic insufficiency syndrome. In spite of severe restrictive respiratory disease, adult survivors of spondylothoracic dysplasia appear to do well clinically for unknown reasons. Cerebrocostomandibular syndrome has scoliosis, micrognathia, and thoracic insufficiency syndrome, due to an "implosion" deformity of the thorax from congenital pseudarthrosis of the posterior ribs. Conclusion.: For optimal patient care, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of exotic congenital syndromes and how they may impact on both the presentation of spinal deformity and the response to treatment, as well as how they may introduce additional morbidity into standard treatment plans. It is clear that with this understanding that preoperative strategies can be employed to enhance the safety of spinal treatment for these unique children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1815-1827
Number of pages13
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical issues
  • Exotic congenital syndromes
  • Preoperative strategies
  • Therapeutic partnerships
  • Thoracic insufficiency syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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