In 1987, surgeons at the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital in San Antonio were approached by a family with a six-month old child who was missing ribs on one side of his chest and had severe scoliosis. The child was also relying on a ventilator to help him breathe. Drs. Robert M. Campbell and Melvin Smith, surgeons at the hospital, knew something had to be done in order to save this child’s life. They thought that if they could create a surgical implant to stabilize and enlarge the chest and make room for the infant’s developing lungs, there might be a chance. The implant they designed connected vertically from rib to rib and expanded the chest, and also corrected the scoliosis. The child thrived and was able to breathe on his own. This surgery suggested that enlarging the chest through a carefully placed implant could improve both scoliosis and allow a young child’s lungs to grow.
The Chest Wall and Spine Deformity Research Foundation, founded in 2005, was created with the specific goal of encouraging and supporting research related to severe spinal deformity in the growing child.
As you may be aware, there are many children that are born with malformations of the spinal column and chest wall that produce severe, disabling deformities. The cause of these malformations remains unknown, but will often result in a shortened, crooked spine and impact a child’s ability to breathe, sit, and walk. Fortunately, recent advances in research and treatment have improved the care of these children, making their future brighter than it has been in the past. However, there remain many unanswered questions.
A team of researchers associated with major medical institutions throughout the world have been working together to find answers to many of these questions and improve care for these children. Progress is being made through these efforts. These physicians and nurses have donated their time and efforts to this research. To date, our research has resulted in 14 publications and over 70 presentations throughout the world. Our Foundation was created to assist with funding to further this research. However, the work is just beginning.