12-year-old Phoenix-area dancer back on stage after new scoliosis surgery

Doctors at Phoenix Children's Hospital used a cutting-edge treatment on a Phoenix-area girl with scoliosis and now she can get back to dancing.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 9:44 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A Valley dancer is back on stage after surgery that corrected her severe scoliosis. It’s all because of a new operation that is an alternative to spinal fusion, which is the tried and true treatment for scoliosis.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital said it is the only health system in the state offering it right now and there have only been four surgeries so far in Arizona. For one Glendale girl, a brace didn’t help her scoliosis and spinal fusion was too limiting. She’s a dancer, so she needed something that wouldn’t hinder her range of motion and new technology did the trick.

Brooklynn Robling is bendy, and as a competitive dancer, that’s a good thing. “Since it was curving so much, I could actually bend more and it helped my like chin stands and elbow stands,” she said.

But the 12-year-old’s back used to be too twisty. She was diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis last year. “A mild scoliosis can be up to 25 degrees. Brooklynn’s was 65,” said Dr. Judson Karlen, her pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Today, her spine is much straighter. Dr. Karlen said that’s thanks to a new procedure known as vertebral body tethering. “We basically try to guide the growth from the front of the spine and actually straighten it as the kids grow and so it takes advantage of further growth to actually get more correction,” he explained.

Brooklynn had the operation in July at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and she was back at practice six weeks later. “It looks really like it’s held up despite your efforts to break it,” joked Dr. Karlen during a recent follow-up appointment.

Brooklynn’s thrilled she can do what she loves without pain. “The best thing that could ever happen to me,” said Brooklynn.

But at first, her family feared she may never dance again. “I was just terrified. Like dance is my life,” said Brooklynn. For mom, Renee Robling, it’s emotional to see her little girl shine on stage. “I love my beautiful daughter and I love my beautiful dancer,” said Renee.

Brooklynn’s spinal curve is now 25 degrees, which her doctor says is already a success, but as she grows, it may get even straighter.

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