Patients with congenital heart disease are at an increased risk to develop scoliosis. The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of spinal deformity in patients after thoracotomy and sternotomy for congenital heart disease.
Sixty-eight patients underwent thoracotomy followed by a sternotomy and met inclusion criteria. The medical records were reviewed to gather demographic data and medical and surgical history. Serial radiographs were reviewed.
Scoliosis developed in 26% of the patients (10 boys, 8 girls). The mean Cobb angle was 40 degrees (range, 15-78 degrees). The mean age at diagnosis of scoliosis was 10.7 years (range, 2.9-17 years). The mean follow-up was 14.9 years (range, 5-20 years). Twelve percent (8 patients) required posterior spinal fusion. A kyphotic deformity developed in 21% (14 patients). In patients with scoliosis, the mean kyphosis was 38 degrees (range, 2-88 degrees). Patients with a cyanotic cardiac condition had a 4-fold incidence of scoliosis. There was no correlation between the development of scoliosis or kyphosis and the age at time of procedures, number of surgeries, sex, heart size, or side of the aortic arch.
The risk of developing scoliosis in children with congenital heart disease is more than 10 times that of idiopathic scoliosis. Spinal deformities, including scoliosis and/or hyperkyphosis, were found in 38% of the patients. Curves develop at a younger age, which increases the risk of progression. The sagittal alignment in scoliosis patients tends toward hyperkyphosis. The thoracic spine receives a "double hit" when both procedures are combined.