Key Highlights

  • Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that can affect children and adults.
  • Surgery for scoliosis is recommended for severe curvature or when other treatment options have failed.
  • The goals of scoliosis surgery are to correct the curvature, stabilize the spine, and improve the patient’s quality of life.
  • Recovery after scoliosis surgery may take several months, and physical therapy is an important part of the rehabilitation process.
  • There are risks and complications associated with scoliosis surgery, but these are generally rare and can be managed with proper medical care.
Key Highlights

Introduction

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. It can affect both children and adults, and its severity can vary from mild curves to severe. Scoliosis can cause physical discomfort, affect posture, and impact daily activities. While there are various treatment options available for scoliosis, including scoliosis bracing and surgery, mild curves in children may require proactive scoliosis treatment, as well as, regular checkups are still recommended to monitor the curve’s progression.

Scoliosis surgery, also known as spinal fusion surgery, hopes to correct the curvature of the spine and stabilize it. The procedure involves the use of bone grafts, metal rods, and screws to straighten the spine and promote fusion of the vertebrae. This surgery can significantly improve the patient’s quality of life and alleviate symptoms such as back pain and limited mobility. However, it is important to consider the potential effects on the spinal cord during any adjustments to the spine. The health of the spinal cord must be closely monitored throughout the surgery. Given the complex and invasive nature of the procedure, many parents are what questions to ask the surgeon beforehand?

Recovery after scoliosis surgery is a gradual process that may take several months. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation process, helping patients regain strength, flexibility, and mobility. While there are risks and complications associated with scoliosis surgery, they are generally rare and can be managed with proper medical care.

Understanding Scoliosis and Surgery

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. It can develop in children and adults, but the most common form is idiopathic scoliosis, which occurs during adolescence. The severity of scoliosis is measured by the degree of spinal curve. Orthopedic surgeons are specialized in diagnosing and treating scoliosis, and they may recommend surgery if the curvature is severe or if other treatment options have failed. In some cases, surgery may also be recommended for kyphosis, a condition where the spine has an abnormal, forward-oriented curvature. It is important to understand the differences between scoliosis and kyphosis in order to make informed decisions about treatment options.

sid new to scoliosis

What Causes Scoliosis in Children and Teens?

The exact cause of scoliosis in children and teens is often unknown, but it is believed to be influenced by a combination of genetic factors and environmental factors. The most common type of scoliosis in this age group is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which occurs during the growth spurt of puberty.

Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of scoliosis. If a child has a family history of scoliosis, their risk of developing the condition is higher. However, not all cases of scoliosis have a genetic component.

During the growth spurt of puberty, the spine grows rapidly, and any abnormalities in its development can lead to scoliosis. This growth imbalance can cause the spine to curve sideways. Girls are more likely to develop scoliosis than boys, and the curvature tends to progress more rapidly in girls.

While the exact cause of scoliosis may still be unclear, early detection and intervention are crucial for effective management and treatment of the condition.

What Causes Scoliosis in Children and Teens

How is Scoliosis Diagnosed and Monitored Over Time?

Scoliosis is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests. The diagnostic process may include the following steps:

  • Physical exam: The doctor will visually inspect the patient’s spine and evaluate their posture, balance, and range of motion.
  • Measurement of spinal curve: The degree of spinal curvature is measured using various imaging techniques, such as X-rays or a scoliometer.
  • Progression of a curve: The doctor may monitor the progression of the curve over time through regular check-ups and periodic X-rays.
  • MRI: In some cases, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may be recommended to assess the spinal structures and identify any underlying abnormalities.

Monitoring scoliosis over time is crucial to determine the appropriate treatment approach. The doctor will schedule regular follow-up appointments to assess the progression of the curve and evaluate the effectiveness of any ongoing treatment or interventions.

Alternative to scoliosis surgery: Scoliosis Boot Camp

For patients with moderate scoliosis or those who prefer a non-surgical approach, an alternative to surgery is Scoliosis Boot Camp. This program combines the ScoliSMART Activity Suit, highly specialized physical therapy, and genetic testing guided supplementation to help manage and potentially correct the curvature of the spine. The Scoliosis Boot Camp focuses on improving posture, strengthening the core muscles, and promoting spinal alignment. It is a comprehensive and intensive treatment approach that requires dedication and commitment from the patient. While not suitable for all cases, the Scoliosis Boot Camp has shown promising results in reducing the progression of scoliosis and improving overall spinal health.

Identical Twins Scoliosis Success Story

Now it’s even easier to connect with ScoliSMART. Schedule your no-cost, no-obligation phone or Zoom consultation online with ScoliSMART physician. Visit the ScoliSMART BootCamp page and click the “Schedule Online” button at the top of the page. Then select the best date and time to connect with a physician. Schedule your consultation right here!

Deciding on Scoliosis Surgery and What Questions to Ask

The decision to undergo scoliosis surgery is based on several factors, including the severity of the spinal curve, the progression of the curve, and the patient’s age. While surgical intervention is usually reserved for cases with severe curvature or when other treatment options have failed, including orthotic therapy, each patient’s situation is evaluated on an individual basis. The goal of surgery, also known as surgical treatment, is to correct the curvature, stabilize the spine, and improve the patient’s quality of life. The surgeon will consider the risks and benefits of surgery and discuss them with the patient and their family before making a decision.

Surgery for scoliosis is generally recommended in cases with severe curvature that exceeds a certain threshold. The decision to proceed with surgery is based on several factors, including:

Severe curvature: If the spinal curve exceeds a specific degree (usually 50 degrees or more), surgery may be recommended to prevent further progression and alleviate symptoms.

Spinal fusion: Scoliosis surgery typically involves spinal fusion, a procedure in which the vertebrae are fused together using bone grafts and metal implants. Fusion surgery is recommended when the curvature is severe and other treatment options have failed to provide relief.

Back pain: In some cases, scoliosis can cause significant back pain that affects daily activities and quality of life. Surgery may be recommended to address the source of pain and improve overall function.

The decision to undergo scoliosis surgery is highly individualized and should be made in consultation with an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery. The surgeon will thoroughly evaluate the patient’s condition, consider all treatment options, and discuss the potential risks and benefits of surgery before making a recommendation.

When is Surgery Recommended for Scoliosis

What are the Goals of Scoliosis Surgery?

The primary goals of scoliosis surgery are to correct the curvature of the spine, stabilize the spine, and improve the patient’s overall function and quality of life. The specific objectives of surgery may vary depending on the individual’s condition, but generally include:

Correction of the curvature: The surgeon aims to straighten the spine as much as possible, reducing the degree of curvature to a more normal range.

Stabilization of the spine: Spinal fusion surgery involves connecting the vertebrae with metal implants and bone grafts, promoting the fusion of the vertebrae and providing stability to the spine.

Improvement of deformity: Scoliosis can cause visible deformity and affect posture. Surgery aims to improve the patient’s appearance and restore a more natural alignment of the spine.

While scoliosis surgery can effectively achieve these goals, it is important to note that the extent of correction and improvement may vary depending on the severity of the curvature and other individual factors. The surgeon will discuss the expected outcomes and limitations of surgery during the preoperative consultation.

How to Prepare Your Child for Scoliosis Surgery

Preparing a child for scoliosis surgery involves several important steps to ensure a smooth and successful procedure:

Preoperative planning: The medical team will conduct a thorough evaluation of the child’s health, perform necessary tests and imaging, and discuss the surgical procedure with the child and their parents. This includes going over the risks, benefits, and expected outcomes of surgery.

General anesthesia: Scoliosis surgery is performed under general anesthesia, which requires the child to be asleep during the procedure. The anesthesiologist will explain the process and address any concerns or questions.

Psychological support: The emotional well-being of the child is essential before and after surgery. Providing age-appropriate information, answering questions, and addressing concerns can help alleviate anxiety and promote a positive mindset.

Parents play a crucial role in preparing their child for surgery by offering reassurance, encouragement, and support. It is important to maintain open communication with the medical team and follow any preoperative instructions, such as fasting before surgery. By working together, parents and healthcare professionals can help ensure a successful surgery and smooth recovery for the child. It is also important to be aware that a catheter may be placed in the bladder the first few days after the procedure to help your child urinate.

Scoli Facts 5

Click on the Scoli-Fact to see the rest of the Scoliosis Facts!

The Scoliosis Surgery Procedure Explained

Scoliosis surgery typically involves a procedure called posterior spinal fusion. During this surgery, the orthopedic surgeon makes an incision on the patient’s back and accesses the spine from the posterior (rear) approach. The surgical steps may include:

  • Removing the joints between the vertebrae to create space for bone grafts
  • Placing bone grafts along the spine to promote fusion
  • Inserting pedicle screws or hooks into the vertebrae to realign and stabilize the spine
  • Attaching rods to the screws or hooks to maintain the corrected alignment
  • Closing the incision and applying dressings or a brace for support

The specific details of the surgical procedure may vary depending on the individual’s condition and the surgeon’s preferred technique. It is important to discuss the surgical plan and any concerns with the orthopedic surgeon before the procedure.

The Scoliosis Surgery Procedure Explained

Different Types of Scoliosis Surgeries

There are different types of surgeries available for scoliosis, depending on the severity and specific characteristics of the individual’s condition. The most common types of scoliosis surgeries include:

Open surgery: This is the traditional approach, where a large incision is made on the back to access the spine. Open surgery allows for direct visualization and correction of the spinal curvature.

Minimally invasive surgery: This approach involves smaller incisions and the use of specialized instruments and techniques to access the spine. Minimally invasive surgery offers the potential for less blood loss, shorter recovery time, and reduced postoperative pain compared to open surgery.

Fusion surgery: The goal of fusion surgery is to stabilize the spine by fusing the vertebrae together. This can be done using bone grafts, metal implants (such as rods, screws, and hooks), or a combination of both.

The choice of surgery depends on various factors, including the patient’s age, the severity of the curvature, and the surgeon’s expertise. The orthopedic surgeon will discuss the available options and recommend the most suitable approach for each individual.

What Happens During Scoliosis Fusion Surgery?

Scoliosis surgery is typically performed in an operating room under general anesthesia. The surgical steps may involve the following:

  • Anesthesia: The anesthesiologist administers general anesthesia to ensure that the patient is asleep and pain-free during the procedure.
  • Incision: The surgeon makes an incision on the back, exposing the spine.
  • Instrumentation: The surgeon uses specialized instruments, such as pedicle screws, hooks, and rods, to realign and stabilize the spine.
  • Bone graft: Bone graft material is placed along the spine to promote fusion and facilitate the healing process.
  • Closure: The surgeon closes the incision using sutures or staples and applies dressings for wound protection.

Throughout the procedure, the medical team carefully monitors the patient’s vital signs and ensures their safety and well-being. The length of the surgery may vary depending on the complexity of the case and the surgeon’s technique. The orthopedic surgeon will provide detailed information about the specific steps and expected outcomes of the surgery, including the discharge procedures, during the preoperative consultation.

What Happens During Scoliosis Fusion Surgery

Risks and Complications Associated with the Scoliosis Surgery Incision and Implants

Like any surgical procedure, scoliosis surgery carries certain risks and potential complications. However, these risks are generally rare and can be managed with proper medical care. Some possible risks and complications associated with scoliosis surgery include:

  • Infection: The surgical site may become infected, requiring antibiotics and additional medical treatment.
  • Blood loss: Scoliosis surgery may involve some blood loss, but this is usually managed through transfusions or other interventions as needed.
  • Nerve damage: In rare cases, nerves near the surgical site may be injured during the procedure, resulting in temporary or permanent neurological deficits.
  • Instrumentation failure: The metal implants used during the operation may loosen or break over time, requiring revision surgeries or additional interventions.
  • Anesthesia-related complications: General anesthesia carries its own risks, such as adverse reactions or complications related to the administration of anesthesia.

It is important for patients and their families to discuss these potential risks with the orthopedic surgeon and understand the steps taken to minimize them. The surgeon will provide detailed information about the specific risks and complications associated with scoliosis surgery based on the individual’s condition and medical history.

Post-Surgery Recovery and Care

The post-operation recovery process for scoliosis patients typically involves a hospital stay, pain management, and physical therapy. The length of the hospital stay may vary depending on the individual’s condition, but it generally ranges from a few days to a week. During this time, the medical team closely monitors the patient’s progress, manages pain, and provides instructions for post-operative care, including the use of a body cast if necessary. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process, helping patients regain strength, mobility, and flexibility. Proper pain management is essential during the healing process, and the medical team will develop a pain management plan tailored to the individual’s needs.

Post-Surgery Recovery and Care

What to Expect During the Hospital Stay

During the hospital stay after scoliosis surgery, patients can expect the following:

  • Monitoring: The medical team closely monitors the patient’s vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, to ensure their safety and well-being.
  • Catheter: A urinary catheter may be inserted to help drain urine during the immediate post-operative period when the patient may have limited mobility.
  • IV lines: Intravenous (IV) lines are used to deliver fluids and medications to the patient.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be administered to prevent infection and promote healing.
  • Pain management: The medical team provides appropriate pain medications to help manage post-operative pain and ensure the patient’s comfort.
  • Mobility: Patients are encouraged to begin moving and walking with assistance as soon as it is safe to do so, under the guidance of the medical team.

The hospital stay allows the medical team to closely monitor the patient’s recovery, provide necessary care and support, and ensure a smooth transition to the next phase of rehabilitation.

Managing Pain After Scoliosis Surgery

Effective pain management is crucial during the recovery process after the operation. Pain medications are typically prescribed to manage post-operative pain and promote comfort. The medical team will develop a personalized pain management plan based on the individual’s needs and the extent of the surgical procedure. This may include:

  • Analgesics: These medications, such as opioids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), help relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA): Some patients may have access to a PCA pump, which allows them to self-administer pain medication within safe limits.
  • Multimodal pain management: Combining different types of pain medications, such as opioids and non-opioids, can provide more effective pain relief while minimizing side effects.

It is important for patients to communicate any pain or discomfort they experience to the medical team so that adjustments can be made to the pain management plan. With proper pain control, patients can focus on their recovery and participate in rehabilitation activities to regain strength and mobility.

our Exercises can reduce the curve

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Physical therapy plays a vital role in the recovery process after scoliosis surgery. A physical therapist will work closely with the patient to develop a customized rehabilitation program aimed at improving strength, mobility, and flexibility. The therapy may include:

  • Exercises: Specific exercises are prescribed to target the muscles and structures affected by scoliosis surgery. These exercises help improve posture, strengthen the core muscles, promote flexibility, and enhance overall function.
  • Mobility training: Patients are guided through gait training and mobility exercises to help them regain their ability to walk and perform daily activities independently.
  • Pain management techniques: The physical therapist may incorporate various pain management techniques, such as heat or cold therapy, massage, and electrical stimulation, to alleviate discomfort and promote healing.
  • Education and guidance: The physical therapist provides guidance on proper body mechanics, posture, and strategies to prevent future complications.

Rehabilitation after scoliosis surgery is a gradual process that requires commitment and consistency. The physical therapist will closely monitor the patient’s progress and adjust the rehabilitation program as needed to promote optimal recovery and functional outcomes.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Follow-up Visits and Long-term Care

After the operation, regular follow-up visits are essential to monitor the patient’s progress and ensure long-term success. The frequency of follow-up appointments may vary depending on the individual’s condition, but they are typically scheduled at regular intervals during the first year and then less frequently thereafter. The medical team will assess the patient’s spinal alignment, monitor fusion progress, and evaluate functional outcomes.

The following table provides a summary of the expected follow-up schedule for recovering patients:

Time PeriodFollow-up Schedule
1-2 weeks post-surgeryFirst follow-up appointment to assess wound healing and address any immediate concerns
3-6 months post-surgeryEvaluation of spinal alignment, fusion progress, and functional outcomes
6-12 months post-surgeryContinued monitoring of spinal alignment, fusion progress, and functional outcomes
Annual check-upsPeriodic visits to assess long-term outcomes and address any new concerns

During these follow-up visits, the medical team will provide guidance on long-term care, including recommendations for physical activity, lifestyle modifications, and potential need for further intervention. Regular monitoring and ongoing care are critical to ensuring the best possible outcomes for scoliosis surgery patients.

Living with Scoliosis After Surgery

Living with scoliosis can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life. The surgery aims to correct the curvature, stabilize the spine, and alleviate symptoms such as pain and limited mobility. After the operation, patients can expect improved posture, increased range of motion, and the ability to engage in daily activities more comfortably. Back support and regular exercise can help maintain the benefits of surgery and promote long-term spine health, specifically in the lower back region. While scoliosis is a lifelong condition, proper post-operative care and adherence to medical recommendations can help patients lead a fulfilling and active lifestyle.

Adjusting to Daily Life Post-Surgery

Adjusting to daily life afterwards may require some modifications and adaptations. Here are some key considerations:

Activity modification: Patients should follow their surgeon’s recommendations regarding physical activity and exercise. While it is important to stay active, certain high-impact activities or contact sports may need to be avoided to protect the spine.

Back care: Practicing good back care is essential for maintaining spine health. This includes using proper lifting techniques, avoiding prolonged sitting or standing in one position, and taking regular breaks to stretch and move.

Posture: Maintaining good posture is crucial for reducing strain on the spine. Patients should be mindful of their posture, especially when sitting or standing for extended periods. Ergonomic adjustments, such as using supportive chairs or pillows, can also help promote good posture.

Regular follow-up appointments with the orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist are important for ongoing guidance and support during the post-surgery adjustment period. With proper care and attention, patients can adapt to their new normal and enjoy an active and fulfilling life.

Adjusting to Daily Life Post-Surgery

Monitoring for Potential Future Procedures

While orthopedic surgeons attempt to correct the curvature and stabilize the spine, there may be a need for monitoring and potential future procedures in some cases. Here are some aspects to consider:

Growth monitoring: In children and adolescents, regular monitoring of growth is important to assess the development of the spine and detect any potential changes or curve progression.

Implant checks: Metal implants, such as rods and screws, used during the procedure may need to be periodically evaluated to ensure their integrity and functionality. Routine imaging tests may be performed to assess the implants’ condition.

Revision surgeries: In rare cases, additional surgical interventions may be required, such as revision surgeries to address implant failure, correct residual curvature, or manage complications. The need for revision surgery depends on the individual’s specific circumstances and will be assessed by the orthopedic surgeon.

Regular follow-up appointments with the medical team are crucial to monitor the long-term outcomes of scoliosis operations, address any concerns, and determine the appropriate course of action. Timely intervention and ongoing care can help ensure optimal spinal health and functional outcomes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding the available treatment options is crucial for informed decision-making. Surgical intervention is recommended based on specific criteria and intends to improve the curvature of the spine. Preparing your child for surgery and managing post-operative care are essential steps in the process. Despite potential risks, post-surgery recovery and rehabilitation play a significant role in achieving long-term success. By staying informed and actively participating in the recovery journey, parents can provide invaluable support to their child throughout the entire process.

get more information on our scoliosis exercise programs

Frequently Asked Questions

Will My Child Need Further Surgeries as They Grow?

The need for further surgeries as a child grows depends on several factors, including the severity of the curvature, the presence of metal rods or implants, the occurrence of growth spurts, and the maturity of the spine. In some cases, adjustment surgeries or additional interventions may be necessary to accommodate growth and ensure optimal spinal alignment.

Can Scoliosis Surgery Correct the Curve Completely?

Surgeons hope to correct the curve as much as possible, but complete correction may not always be achievable. The extent of curve correction depends on factors such as the severity of the initial curvature, the flexibility of the spine, and individual patient characteristics. The orthopedic surgeon will discuss the expected surgical outcome and potential limitations during the preoperative consultation.

How Long Will it Take for My Child to Return to School?

The recovery time after the procedure before returning to school can vary depending on the individual’s condition and the extent of the surgical procedure. Most children can return to school within 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. However, some academic accommodations, such as reduced physical activity or modified seating arrangements, may be necessary during the recovery period. It is important to work closely with the school and healthcare professionals to ensure a smooth transition back to school.

How Long Will it Take for My Child to Return to School

Are There Any Restrictions on Physical Activity After Surgery?

While physical activity is important for overall health, there may be certain restrictions on sports and activities following the operation. The specific restrictions depend on the individual’s condition, the type of surgery performed, and the stage of the healing process. The orthopedic surgeon will provide guidance on physical restrictions and gradually introduce activities as the healing progresses. It is important to follow the healthcare professional’s recommendations to promote proper healing and minimize the risk of complications.

How Can Parents Support Their Child Through the Recovery Process?

Parents play a vital role in supporting their child during the recovery process after the procedure. Here are some ways parents can help:

  • Emotional support: Offering reassurance, understanding, and encouragement can help alleviate anxiety and promote a positive mindset.
  • Home environment: Creating a comfortable and conducive home environment for recovery is important. This includes ensuring a calm and organized space, providing nutritious meals, and assisting with daily activities as needed.
  • Care tips: Following the healthcare professional’s instructions regarding wound care, pain management, and physical therapy is crucial. Parents can help ensure that the child adheres to the recommended care plan and attends follow-up appointments.

By providing emotional support, a nurturing home environment, and adhering to the recommended care plan, parents can help their child navigate the recovery process after scoliosis surgery and promote a successful outcome.