Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine develops one or more abnormal, side-to-side curves. These curves may affect the body’s overall balance and alignment, as well as possibly lead to other physical and health problems.
A certain degree of curvature is normal in the human spine. When you look at your body from the side, you can see the gentle inward and outward curves of the neck, upper back and lower back. These are necessary for keeping the body properly balanced and aligned over the pelvis.
But when viewed from the back, the vertebrae of a healthy spine should form a straight line. In someone with scoliosis, the spine looks more like an “S” or a “C” than an “I.” The spinal bones involved in the curve also may rotate to some degree, which can further contribute to the appearance of an uneven waist or shoulders.
Surgery – specifically, spinal fusion – is recommended for severe curves and for curves that have not responded to non-surgical intervention. Spinal fusion involves placing graft material between the affected bones in the spine to encourage them to fuse, or join together.
Instrumentation, such as screws, rods, and connectors, is implanted along the treated area. The instrumentation is key because it creates an “internal cast” to support the vertebral structures and redirect stress properly along the spine during the healing and fusing process.
Ultimately, the goal is to halt the progression of the curve and reduce spinal deformity, to the extent possible, restoring proper spinal stability and alignment.
Surgery is an option used primarily for severe scoliosis (curves greater than 45 degrees) or for curves that do not respond to bracing. There are two primary benefits of successful scoliosis surgery:
- To stop a curve from progressing
- To reduce rib prominence and diminish spinal deformity
All treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications such as infection, nerve damage, blood loss, and bowel and bladder problems are some of the potential risks of any type of spinal surgery, including spinal fusion for the treatment of scoliosis.
Additional complications that may be associated with scoliosis surgery include loss of proper spinal balance, failure, of the bones to properly heal and fuse (pseudoarthrosis), instrumentation failure and vertebral degeneration in the levels adjacent to the fused section.
Please consult your doctor for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse effects, clinical results, and other important medical information that pertains to scoliosis surgery.
After the operation, you will be brought to the recovery room or intensive care unit (ICU) for observation.
Members of your surgical team may ask you to respond to some simple commands, such as “wiggle your fingers and toes” and “take deep breaths.” When you awaken, you will be lying on your back, which may seem surprising, given that scoliosis surgery is often performed through an incision in the back. However, lying on your back is not harmful to the surgical area.
During your hospital stay, you will get additional instructions from your nurses and other members of your surgical teams regarding your diet and activity.
In most cases, your surgeon will want you to get out of bed on the first or second day after your surgery. Nurses and physical therapists will assist you with this activity until you feel comfortable enough to get up and move around on your own.
Before you are discharged from the hospital, your doctor and other members of the hospital staff will give you additional self-care instructions for you to follow at home – a list of “dos and don’ts,” which you will be asked to follow for the first 6 to 8 weeks of your home recovery.
Follow up with your doctor on a regular basis during this post-operative period. Make sure to call your doctor if you have any concerns or questions.
With recent advances in technology, most patients are released within a week of surgery and do not require post-operative bracing. Most patients are able to return to school or work in 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery and are able to resume all pre-operative activities within 4 to 6 months.
After the recovery process, most patients return to leading their normal active lives.
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