The Harrington rod was a stainless steel spinal instrument that was implanted in the patient along their spinal column to treat a curvature in their spine starting in the 1960s. Harrington rods were the most common tool used for scoliosis to treat instability and deformity of the spine from 1967 until about 1990.
It is estimated that around one million people had Harrington rods implanted because of scoliosis in its thirty-year history. Newer developments in medicine and medical technology have now made the Harrington rod obsolete. The Harrington rod and its successors are all centered around the same idea that the tools are only designed to temporary correct the curvature in the spine, but it is the actual healing of the spinal fusion which fixes the patient’s condition. These rods have also been widely linked to the development of Flatback Syndrome in recipients.
Flatback from Harrington Rods
This 66 year old woman had a scoliosis fixed with CD rods when she was a teenager. She noticed over the previous 20 years progressive stooping forward, and severe physical pain and cosmetic deformity. She performed 6 weeks of Physical Therapy with our Spine Specialized physical therapist with no avail. Her diagnosis was severe flatback from lumbar kyphosis and thoracolumbar kyphosis. She was given a nutritional plan and a medical clearance, and in 2016 we performed a T3-Pelvis complex spinal reconstruction with posterior column osteotomies at T7-L1, and a 3 column Type 4 pedicle subtraction osteotomy at L4. 6 weeks later she had a 1.5 hour mini open anterior lumbar inter body fusion at L5S1 to additionally fuse this level.
2 years later, she can walk over 2 miles, rates her pain level as none, and her disability level as zero (VAS 0, ODI 0). She participates in fitness classes and a walking program, and lives independently alone.