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Emily’s story: Back in the saddle after scoliosis surgery

Published by , on Jul 12, 2019
Emily on horse

Safety note: Always wear a helmet when actively riding a horse.

Angela Davis gave her 11-year-old daughter Emily a hug like she had done many times before, but this time something felt different.

“She noticed that my shoulder blades didn’t seem like they were in the right place,” said Emily. “We went to the doctor the next day.”

Although Emily had seen her pediatrician just six months prior for her regular checkup, her scoliosis wasn’t discovered until she hit a growth spurt. She was immediately referred to an orthopaedic surgeon and, like most moms, Angela did her own research to learn about her daughter’s condition and options for care.

The Davis family began traveling two hours each way to a center that specializes in scoliosis for x-rays and bracing. Through mom’s continued research, she then found Dr. Victoria Kuester, orthopaedic surgeon at CHoR.

“About a month following Emily’s diagnosis and after seeing other providers, I came across Dr. Kuester online and sent her an email. She responded that same night and then I scheduled an evaluation. I’m so glad I did,” said Angela.

Emily and Angela were comforted by Dr. Kuester’s kind bedside manner and knowledge about the most innovative approaches to scoliosis treatment.

“We knew immediately that if we did go the route of surgery, she was the doctor we wanted,” Angela added.

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Dr. Kuester and Emily

They were also thrilled to learn that Dr. Kuester used the high-tech, ultra-low-dose EOS imaging that Emily was getting at the first clinic. They no longer had to make the long trek for expert care or the safest, lowest radiation option for Emily’s recurring scans. Our Children’s Pavilion is home to the only EOS technology in Central Virginia.

Kids with scoliosis receive regular imaging so doctors can track the progress of the condition and make informed decisions about treatment. This frequency, coupled with the large portion of the body that needs to be scanned, can add up to significant amounts of radiation over time. EOS uses 50% less radiation than a standard x-ray, sometimes even less, and provides high-quality, 3D images of the whole body in one scan lasting only 10-20 seconds.

“It’s very important to me that EOS provides safe imaging for my patients. Because the scans are done standing up, I can also see the body’s alignment in its weight-bearing position which gives me clear, multi-angle views of the spine and lower limbs and helps me make an informed assessment of the condition’s impact on the entire body,” said Dr. Kuester.

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EOS scan of Emily’s spine after surgery

Emily did end up going the route of surgery and on July 19, 2018, Dr. Kuester fused Emily’s spine in a successful operation. In the days that followed, therapy dogs visited Emily in the hospital and provided the encouragement she needed to get moving and return home to see her own pets.

Emily had six weeks to recover at home before going back to school, which she was able to do alongside all of her classmates returning from summer break. After a great school year, Emily has reached another milestone – getting back in the saddle and riding her horse again after a nearly year-long hiatus following surgery.

Today, Emily is doing all her normal activities, including preparing to start her eighth grade year and finish out middle school with her friends. She also continues to see Dr. Kuester, albeit much less frequently. Annual EOS scans moving forward will help Dr. Kuester keep an eye on Emily’s spine, and knowing that they’re being done with the lowest-dose radiation possible will help them all rest easy.

In addition to scoliosis, EOS imaging can be beneficial for kids with conditions that cause hip, knee and other lower limb deformities that require regular scans in weight-bearing positions.

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