Study design: This was a multi-center retrospective cohort study included consecutive pediatric patients who were admitted to 8 institutions for the treatment of congenital spinal deformity from 1991 to 2012. Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare curve corrections and balances, reoperations, and complications at 2-year follow-up between those treated early vs. late. Summary of background data: Although early intervention has been recommended, no empirical study has examined the optimal timing of short fusion among patients with congenital spinal deformity. Methods: Patients with congenital spinal deformity with formation failure undergoing vertebrectomy with short fusion (≤ 6 fusion segments) were categorized as early (surgery at ≤ 6 years) and late (7–18 years) fusion. Outcomes included coronal and sagittal curve corrections at immediate and 2-year evaluations; loss of curve correction from immediate to 2-year follow-up; coronal and sagittal balance at 2 years; and inter-operative, major and minor short-term postoperative, and long-term postoperative complications and reoperations. Results: Early fusion (N = 79) compared to late fusion (N = 96) was associated with greater percent curve correction at immediate (71% vs. 60%, p = 0.0046) and 2-year (63% vs. 52%, p = 0.0153) evaluations adjusting for surgeon experience and preoperative coronal balance. These associations were significant for males and those with 3-level fusions but not 4 to 6-level fusions. Early fusion compared with late fusion had more intraoperative (6% vs. 1%) and postoperative long-term complications (27% vs. 18%), as well as unplanned reoperations (13% vs. 9%). Early vs. late fusion had fewer short-term complications, both major (6% vs. 15%) and minor (6% vs. 15%). Conclusions: Patients who underwent early treatment achieved larger major curve correction by 10% compared to patients with late treatment when assessed at 2-year postoperative evaluation. However, early fusion should be considered with careful attention to possible increased risk of reoperations. Level of evidence: Level III.
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