Orthopaedic manifestations of familial dysautonomia: A review of one hundred and thirty-six patients

E. Bar-On*, Y. Floman, S. Sagiv, K. Katz, R. D. Pollak, C. Maayan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Familial dysautonomia is a hereditary multisystemic disease primarily affecting people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Musculoskeletal problems are related to gait disorders, spinal deformities, foot deformities, fractures, and arthropathies. Methods: The charts and radiographs of 136 patients who ranged in age from three months to forty-six years (mean, sixteen years) were reviewed. Sixty-four patients were available for follow-up examination. Results: Spinal deformity was the most common orthopaedic problem and was diagnosed in seventy-eight patients starting at the age of four years, with a prevalence of 86 percent (forty-eight of fifty-six) by the age of fifteen years. Forty-one (53 percent) of the seventy-eight patients had scoliosis only, thirty-four (44 percent) had kyphoscoliosis, and three (4 percent) had kyphosis only. Bracing was accompanied by emotional, pulmonary, and skin problems, leading to a high rate of noncompliance and progression of the curve. Twenty-four patients had an operation at a mean age of thirteen years (range, five to eighteen years): twenty patients had posterior spinal arthrodesis, and four had combined anterior and posterior arthrodesis. Fifteen patients had a total of nineteen complications, of which seven were systemic and twelve were related to the spinal fixation. Eight patients had revision surgery. At the time of the surgery, scoliosis was corrected from a mean of 55 degrees to a mean of 35 degrees and kyphosis was corrected from a mean of 69 degrees to a mean of 61 degrees. After a mean duration of follow-up of sixty-five months, scoliosis measured 49 degrees (range, 18 to 62 degrees) and kyphosis measured 67 degrees (range, 30 to 115 degrees). Postoperative progression of the deformity was caused by failure of the instrumentation or progression in unfused segments. Walking was delayed in 72 percent (ninety-four) of the 130 patients who were of walking age. All sixty-four of the patients who were examined had an ataxic gait. Foot deformities were found in sixteen patients, six of whom were treated surgically. Two patients had Charcot joints. Fifty-five patients sustained at least one fracture before skeletal maturity, with a mean of 1.5 fractures per patient. All but one of the fractures was treated nonoperatively, and fracture-healing was often accompanied by profuse callus formation. Conclusions: Spinal deformity is common in patients with familial dysautonomia. Bracing is of questionable benefit, and surgical intervention should be considered once curve progression is well documented. Arthrodesis should be extended as far proximally as possible to prevent junctional kyphosis. Swelling and warmth in a limb should raise suspicion of an undiagnosed fracture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1563-1570
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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