As a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who treats spinal issues, Dominick Tuason, MD, relies on a team approach.
“You’re not just dealing with a child, but the entire family. It’s a team and we all share the same goal—we want to help the child get better,” Dr. Tuason says. “Part of my job is sharing my expertise. I take complex information and break it into understandable segments a 5-year-old and a 30-year-old can understand at the same time.”
Dr. Tuason specializes in treating a type of scoliosis (curvature in the spine) called early onset scoliosis, a rare form that affects children before age 10. “In certain instances when it happens very early during a child’s development, it can impact their pulmonary or breathing function,” he explains.
Today, there are many treatment options for children with various forms of scoliosis. “We try to employ some form of nonoperative treatment, including scoliosis-specific physical therapy and casting, which is a special type of body cast a child wears to help control or even correct his or her scoliosis,” Dr. Tuason says. “For more complex cases, sometimes surgery is necessary to successfully treat the curvature.”
One surgical technique involves implanting a magnetic growing rod in the spine. “We have technologies that include using a remote that you can hold up to a child’s back during an office visit to expand the rods as the child grows,” he explains. “In the past, the rods had to be manually expanded in the operating room about every six months.”
Building relationships with patients and families is the most rewarding part of his job, Dr. Tuason says. “It’s not a one-time interaction where I say hello and goodbye on the same day. When I’m treating someone with scoliosis, I’m typically following them every six to 12 months through adolescence,” he says. “I truly find it fulfilling to become part of the fabric of a family’s life and to see them at the other end of their treatment.”
Dr. Tuason is an assistant professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine.