Surgery for Muscular Dystrophy

NYU Langone doctors may recommend surgery to manage certain complications of muscular dystrophy, such as cardiomyopathy and scoliosis.

Treatment options vary, depending on the type of muscular dystrophy. For example, people with myotonic muscular dystrophy may need surgery to remove cataracts, which is when the lens of the eye becomes clouded, interfering with vision. People who have Emery–Dreifuss muscular dystrophy or myotonic muscular dystrophy may need surgery to implant a pacemaker or cardiac defibrillators to manage abnormal heart rhythm conditions.

Spinal Fusion Surgery

People with muscular dystrophy may develop scoliosis, a condition that causes the spine to curve in an abnormal way and may lead to disability. Scoliosis can affect both children and adults.

Spinal fusion surgery is an effective way to straighten and stabilize the bones of the spine, called vertebrae. Straightening the spine also helps to preserve lung function.

In this procedure, a surgeon uses rods, screws, wires, and bone grafts, which are small pieces of bone taken from other parts of the body, to permanently join the vertebrae. New bone eventually grows over the graft. It may take several months to a few years for the bones to fuse completely.

Tendon Release Surgery

When muscles and tendons harden, shorten, and contract, they can make joints rigid and affect their growth and movement. Soft tissue release surgery involves making an incision in affected muscles, tendons, or ligaments to release them from the joints, allowing people with muscular dystrophy to move more freely and comfortably. 

This surgery is often performed in children on the Achilles tendon. This tendon is made of thick, inflexible fibers, which sometimes need to be cut to allow for a thorough repositioning of the foot.

Most children experience little discomfort after the procedure. Our doctors recommend acetaminophen, if needed.

Your child wears a cast for three weeks after surgery. During this time, the Achilles tendon regrows to a longer length, due to the positioning of the cast.

By the time the cast is removed, the tendon has healed and allows for greater range of motion and the correct positioning of your child’s foot during walking and physical therapy. Early physical rehabilitation is essential to helping your child walk and move following surgery.

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