Scoliosis Surgery

What is scoliosis surgery?

closeup of a spine xray

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that most often begins during the growth spurt just before puberty. Many people will not need any treatment for their condition. Only a small number will need to have surgery to correct the curvature of their spine to reduce the cosmetic deformity and improve lung function.

Scoliosis surgery performed by an orthopaedic surgeon realigns and fuses together the curved vertebrae so that they heal into a single, solid bone.

When should I see a specialist for scoliosis surgery?

Treatment for scoliosis depends on your age, the severity of the curve and the likelihood of the curve worsening. You may wish to consult a specialist for treatment if you or your child have any of these signs below:

● a visibly curved spine
● uneven shoulders
● one shoulder blade or hip being more prominent than the other
● the ribs rotating out to one side
● clothes not fitting well

If scoliosis continues to get worse, and bracing is either not feasible or not working for the patient, surgery may be considered.

Enquire with our orthopaedic surgeons.

Did you know?

A small study showed that scoliosis surgery not only corrects the spinal curve, but also leads to an increase in self-esteem and life satisfaction¹.

What are the risks of scoliosis surgery?

three elderly women brisk walking outdoors

Any operation including scoliosis surgery, presents risks such as the possibility of infections and blood clots. Risks specific to scoliosis surgery may include:

● excessive amounts of bleeding
● persistent pain at the site of the bone graft (usually at the hip)
● pseudarthrosis (a condition where the bone graft fails to fuse with the vertebrae) which may require another operation
● nerve damage
● lung complications

How should I prepare for my appointment?

During your first visit to a orthopaedic surgeon, your orthopaedic surgeon will ask you for your past medical history, the tests that you have done and the treatments that you have had. You are advised to bring your previous diagnostic tests and reports, such as recent MRIs and X-rays.

The orthopaedic surgeon will also likely ask about the types of treatments you have had for your back as well as any other supplements and drugs that you are currently taking.

What can I expect during scoliosis surgery?

elderly couple doing stretching exercises

During scoliosis surgery, the surgeon will use hooks, screws, and rods to straighten the spinal column. The affected area of the spine will be repositioned to correct the abnormal rotation and sideways curvature. Bone grafts will be placed along the affected areas to help the bones fuse. The rods will act as a splint, holding the spine in place while the bone grafts fuse after the surgery.

The initial fusion process usually takes about 3 to 6 months and continues to take hold for up to 12 months. The spine’s shape and position is now held by the newly fused bones. The rods are not removed unless there is irritation of the soft tissue. At this point, the rod can be removed without affecting the spine stability.

What happens after my scoliosis surgery?

Immediately after the surgery, rest and keeping the spine aligned are the top priorities. After three months, you are likely to begin a physical rehabilitation programme to help strengthen back muscles and improve flexibility where possible.

Your orthopaedic surgeon will likely check on your spine between the 6- and 12-month mark using X-rays to determine if the fusion has reached completion. Once the fusion has reached full strength, you will be allowed to return to all activities with no restrictions.

While most activities should be possible, participation in any high-impact activities such as bungee jumping, full contact sports, or amusement rides should be discussed with your orthopaedic surgeon.

Request an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon today.

[1] Zhang J, He D, Gao J, et al. Changes in Life Satisfaction and Self-esteem in Patients with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis With and Without Surgical Intervention. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2011;36(9):741-745. doi:10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181e0f034.