Daniel Sucato and Johnny Zhang

Aug 22, 2019 / Research & Innovation

Sucato & Zhang Publish Research to Advance Spine Surgery

Our team of experts conduct ongoing research to discover innovative treatment techniques to provide safe and efficient care to our patients. As one of the most common conditions treated at the hospital, scoliosis presents in many forms – from moderate to severe. Chief of Staff Daniel J. Sucato, M.D., M.S., and researcher Hong "Johnny" Zhang, M.D.*, have been at the forefront of advancing the correction of severe scoliosis and recently published A Novel Posterior Rod-Link-Reducer System Provides Safer, Easier, and Better Correction of Severe Scoliosis in Spine Deformity. 

Caring for a child with severe scoliosis can be very complex and can cause other issues such as poor pulmonary function. Because of this, the surgical approach must be strategically planned to avoid significant risks like neurologic problems involving the spinal cord, long operative times and significant blood loss. Since providing a safe and efficient surgical environment is the priority, our team wanted to develop a device to help perform surgery on more severe curves to improve its safety. The rod-link-reducer (RLR) was developed by Sucato and Zhang. It takes advantage of the ability to hold on to the spine above and below the main apex of the curve to gradually correct it. 

The study compared the RLR method of correction to the traditional corrective techniques (not using the RLR approach) in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis with curves larger than 75 degrees. The team analyzed 36 patients who fit the inclusion criteria for the study – 18 of the curves were corrected using the rod-link-reducer method and the other 18 were corrected with the traditional techniques. The following was discovered when using the RLR system:
  • Greater curve correction.
  • Shorter time in the operating room.
  • Lower incidence of critical neuromonitoring changes during surgery. These are alerts by the spinal cord monitoring team that can potentially cause an injury to the spinal cord, resulting in neurologic impairment. 
“This research has allowed us to advance how we care for children with severe scoliosis, and as it turns out, the RLR has been so successful with the larger curves, that we often utilize it for the more moderate size curve,” says Sucato. “For a child who must have a major procedure, like spine surgery, it is crucial to evaluate all potential risks and make sure it is the safest environment. From this project, we now understand the value of using the rod-link-reducer and the benefits it brings to this patient population.”

Learn more about the hospital’s spine research. 

*Medical degree from Tianjin Medical University, China

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