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Surgery for Scoliosis

Doctors may recommend surgery for patients with severe scoliosis. The goal of scoliosis surgery is to balance the spine and keep it from curving more, without completely straightening it (which could damage the spinal cord). Most people stay in the hospital for five to seven days after this procedure. Also, it will take some time for muscle strength to return.

An Overview of Scoliosis Surgery

Severe scoliosis can lead to:
  • Problems with the heart and lungs
  • Pain
  • Decreased self-image
  • Premature death.
To reduce the possibility of these problems occurring, doctors may recommend surgery for scoliosis for certain patients.
Doctors advise patients to have surgery in order to correct a curve or stop it from worsening when the patient:
  • Is still growing
  • Has a curve that is more than 45 degrees
  • Has a curve that is getting worse.
One-third of the 30,000 to 70,000 spinal surgery procedures done each year are done for scoliosis.

The Goal of Surgery for Scoliosis

The goal of scoliosis surgery is to balance the spine and stop it from continuing to curve. The goal is not to completely straighten the spine, which may cause damage to the spinal cord. Each patient should discuss his or her options with at least two experienced surgeons.

Surgery for Scoliosis: Correction, Stabilization, and Fusion

The scoliosis surgery is correction, stabilization, and fusion of the curve. Many different techniques can be used to achieve correction. For example, one approach is done through the back (posterior approach). In other cases, surgery can be done through the front (anterior approach). The specific method the doctor recommends is based on factors such as the location and severity of the curve.
Surgeons can also choose different ways to straighten the spine (correction) and different implants to keep the spine stable after surgery (stabilization). Implants are devices that remain in the patient after surgery to keep the spine aligned. Types of implants used for scoliosis include rods, screws, hooks, and wires.
The decision about the type of implant will depend on:
  • The cost
  • The size of the implant, which depends on the size of the patient
  • The shape of the implant
  • How safe the implant is
  • The experience of the surgeon.
After the curve has been straightened, the surgeon will fuse the different vertebrae that were causing the curve. Fusion is the joining of two or more vertebrae so that motion no longer occurs between them. This is done by taking pieces of bone from the pelvis, ribs, or the spine itself.
Over several months, the healed fusions harden in a straightened position, leaving the rest of the spine flexible. This will prevent further curving of the spine.
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