There are four types of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis (most commonly diagnosed during adolescence), neuromuscular scoliosis (secondary to a neuromuscular condition or syndrome), degenerative scoliosis (common for people over 50), and congenital scoliosis (present at birth). Scoliosis is a condition that causes a sideways curvature of the spine. A spine affected by scoliosis appears to be “S” or “C” shaped. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), about 80 percent of scoliosis cases have no identifiable cause; however, the disorder is often related to birth defects, neurological abnormalities, and genetic defects. If left untreated, the condition may progress with age to cause a number of complexities, such as breathing problems, prominent ribs, uneven shoulder blades, and even permanent disability. Fortunately, there are treatment options available for the condition, including scoliosis surgery, which can help correct the curvature of the spine. With physicians who are members of the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center referral line and treat numerous spine conditions including scoliosis, throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, we can help get you to a doctor who can help with scoliosis treatment. Having said that, the blog post discusses the various aspects of scoliosis spinal fusion surgery and what patients can expect.
Scoliosis Spinal Fusion Surgery Procedure
Spinal fusion surgery is the most common surgical procedure to correct scoliosis. The surgery aims to minimize the deformed, “S” or “C” shaped curve as much as possible, so as to strengthen and stabilize the spine. The procedure involves inserting and attaching metal implants, such as rods, hooks, wires, screws; followed by bone grafts to the curved part of the spine, in an effort to straighten it. The bony grafts eventually grow to fuse with the spine, healing to form a rigid, hard bone that realigns the spine and keeps it in a balanced, unbendable position. Though the process may interfere with spine movement, there is no better way to arrest the progression and prevent the associated disability caused by scoliosis.
Spinal fusion surgery is recommended to correct a severely deformed spine. In children treatment for scoliosis typically starts with monitoring and bracing. Though bracing does not correct scoliosis, it can slow down the rate at which the curve progresses. Apart from children and adolescents, adults may also need a spinal fusion if:
- The curvature progresses and is likely to get worse
- Sideways curvature exceeds 50 degrees to cause chronic back pain
- The curve impacts the ability to breathe
- The “S” or “C” shaped spine creates posture problems
- The spinal cord or nerves become irritated or compressed by the deforming bone
Scoliosis spinal fusion surgery may pose certain risks for patients, however, it can be successfully mitigated by seeking help from an experienced surgeon. The most substantial risks include:
- Bleeding, requiring blood transfusion
- Infection, which can be treated with antibiotics
- Graft’s failure to fuse, which may require corrective surgery
- Spinal nerve damage, which may lead to numbness or paralysis of the legs
Read More : A Brief Guide to Scoliosis Surgery
Spinal fusion surgery may take anywhere from four to six hours; however, the procedure can last longer, depending on the severity of the curve and the technique used to straighten the spine. Contemporary less invasive techniques and recent advances in robotic technology provide the surgeon with the ability to minimize the tissue damage and optimize the post-surgery recovery.
The primary goal of scoliosis spinal fusion surgery is to prevent the spinal curvature and deformity from getting worse and allow for normal day to day function. The extent to which the curve can be corrected depends on the degree of curvature and the technique used to straighten the spine. Most patients experience remarkable improvement in the shape of the spine after scoliosis spinal fusion surgery, with subsequent reduction in back pain and other symptoms.
Road to Recovery
In the post-surgery period most patients will be allowed to participate in their day to day activities early on, however they will be restricted in strenuous activities for about a 6 month period. During the period following surgery they should regularly go for follow-up appointments to assess progress and expedite recovery. Spinal fusion is a major surgery, which may take between eight weeks to one year for a patient to completely get back on their feet. Most patients return to normal life after one year, and the recovery schedule is as follows:
Initial 6 months
No physical activity apart from slow walking and occasional bending.
Six to Eight Months
Spine X-rays are performed to evaluate the healing progress. If results are satisfactory, activities such as brisk walking and swimming can be permitted.
Eight to Ten Months
The patient may resume less strenuous activities such as cycling or closed chain kinetic exercises.
Ten to Twelve Months
Another round of X-rays is performed to check whether the spine has healed according to expectations. If everything goes well, the patient can typically resume any physical activity.
Many children and adults with scoliosis require regular monitoring to assess whether the curvature is worsening or not. Mild scoliosis can be treated by using braces; however, they are only a temporary solution to suppress spinal deformity. When appropriate spinal fusion surgery is an effective method to permanently reshape a scoliosis-affected spine. The surgery not only prevents the sideways curvature from worsening, but also strengthens the spine to improve its ability to support the body. If you suspect you may have scoliosis, the physician members at Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center can help. To learn more about scoliosis in adults or scoliosis spinal fusion surgery, book an appointment here. You can also call us at 1-888-608-4762.
Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center.