A case of severe and rigid congenital thoracolumbar lordoscoliosis with diastematomyelia presenting with type 2 respiratory failure: managed by staged correction with controlled axial traction



Congenital lordoscoliosis is an uncommon pathology and its management poses formidable challenge especially in the presence of type 2 respiratory failure and intraspinal anomalies. In such patients standard management protocols are not applicable and may require multistage procedure to minimize risk and optimize results.

Case description

A 15-year-old girl presented in our hospital emergency services with severe breathing difficulty. She had a severe and rapidly progressing deformity in her back, noted since 6 years of age, associated with severe respiratory distress requiring oxygen and BiPAP support. She was diagnosed to have a severe and rigid congenital right thoracolumbar lordoscoliosis (coronal Cobb’s angle: 105° and thoracic lordosis −10°) with type 1 split cord malformation with bony septum extending from T11 to L3. This leads to presentation of restrictive lung disease with type 2 respiratory failure. As her lung condition did not allow for any major procedure, we did a staged procedure rather than executing in a single stage. Controlled axial traction by halogravity was applied initially followed by halo-femoral traction. Four weeks later, this was replaced by halo-pelvic distraction device after a posterior release procedure with asymmetric pedicle substraction osteotomies at T7 and T10. Halo-pelvic distraction continued for 4 more weeks to optimize and correct the deformity. Subsequently definitive posterior stabilization and fusion was done. The detrimental effect of diastematomyelia resection in such cases is clearly evident from literature, so it was left unresected. A good scoliotic correction with improved respiratory function was achieved. Three years follow-up showed no loss of deformity correction, no evidence of pseudarthrosis and a good clinical outcome with reasonably balanced spine.


The management of severe and rigid congenital lordoscoliotic deformities with intraspinal anomalies is challenging. Progressive reduction in respiratory volume in untreated cases can lead to acute respiratory failure. Such patients have a high rate of intraoperative and postoperative morbidity and mortality. Hence a staged procedure is recommended. Initially a less invasive procedure like halo traction helps to improve their respiratory function with simultaneous correction of the deformity, while allowing for monitoring of neurological deficit. Subsequently spinal osteotomies and combined halo traction helps further improve the correction, following which definitive instrumented fusion can be done.

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Correspondence to Vijayanth Kanagaraju.

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The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s). No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

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Kanagaraju, V., Chhabra, H.S., Srivastava, A. et al. A case of severe and rigid congenital thoracolumbar lordoscoliosis with diastematomyelia presenting with type 2 respiratory failure: managed by staged correction with controlled axial traction. Eur Spine J 25, 3034–3041 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-014-3624-0

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  • Lordoscoliosis
  • Diastematomyelia
  • Split cord malformation
  • Halo traction
  • Pseudarthrosis
  • Controlled axial traction