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DENVER (KDVR) –A 15-year-old boy is feeling better after he got a relatively new procedure to correct a severe curvature of the spine.

The X-ray showing Joe Harrington’s 50-degree curvature really shocked his family.  

“We were stunned,” his mother, Carmen, said.

Instead of a spinal fusion, the family opted for a procedure called vertebral body tethering, or VBT, which was just FDA approved last fall.

“They put screws in the sides of his spine, and then they attach a rope to those screws and kind of tighten it,” Carmen explained.

Dr. Jaren Riley is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, and the only surgeon in the region to perform the surgery so far.

“In all my years of being a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, I think this is the biggest step forward in helping young people with scoliosis to get a straighter spine, but also a much more mechanically natural spine,” Riley said. 

He says VBT allows each segment of spine to move more naturally, and the spine continues to correct overtime. Plus, VBT can be done with a few small incisions and cameras.

“Much less invasive, the recovery is faster. Usually these kids can get back to sports in six weeks, rather than four months,” Riley said. 

That’s great news for the Joe.  

The Highlands Ranch Baseball player also got a little extra height from the surgery. Joe says he was 5-foot-6, but is now 5-foot-8.