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Harrington Rod

Harrington Article The Times 1960. Right click to "save target as" to download the article in PDF

An inserted device using the principles of distraction or compression to stabilize the spine posteriorly in thoracic or lumbar spine fractures or to correct scoliosis. The system is unsuitable for children less than 6 years of age, or for lumbar lordosis or severe thoracolumbar kyphosis. The distraction is applied through upper and lower hooks which are seated on the concave side above and below the curve. There may also be a compression rod sited on the convex side of the curve with two or three hooks above and below the apex of the curve.

Harrington Rod

The breakthrough was the invention of the Harrington Rod by Paul Harrington of Texas (pictured left) in the 1950s, whose stainless-steel rod with a ratchet and a hook at each end allowed the safe placement, on the back of the spine, a metal strut, which could be lengthened to pull out a C-shaped curve to as near straight as possible. This procedure had to be accompanied by a spinal fusion—bone grafting—to solidify the spine in the straightened position. Without this fusion, constant movement would loosen the rod and it would either break or rattle free.

Denise Vanderbush Harrington Rod

This was a major advance in the treatment of scoliosis. For the first time, surgeons were able to use the distraction forces provided by the rod to hold the spine in a corrected position while the underlying spine fusion took place.

The vast majority of patients have had excellent results with Harrington rod instrumentation and fusion. However, a few patients develop low back and leg pain decades after their original scoliosis fusion surgery; these problems can also develop in patients who have been fused without the Harrington rod.

There are many patients around the world who have suffered from Flatback Syndrome which is a postural defect that results from a reduction in the patient's lordosis, or back waist curve, that leans the person forward in a malaligned position, it has also been known to force an outward shift of discs below the fusion, the majority of patients who suffer with Flatback Syndrome due to the Harrington Rod have fusion below L1.

You should take a second opinion if a Harrington Rod is offered to you in this day and age!