Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that affects many adolescents, causing an abnormal sideward curvature of the spine. While the majority of cases can be effectively managed through non-surgical methods, there are instances where surgery becomes necessary. Scoliosis surgery, also known as spinal fusion surgery, aims to correct the curvature and further deformity. However, it is important to recognize that like any surgical procedure, scoliosis surgery carries potential risks and complications. In this blog, we will explore scoliosis surgery risks in adolescents, shedding light on the potential complications that patients and their families should be aware of before making an decision.

the potential complications that patients and their families

Understanding Scoliosis Surgery and Its Importance

Scoliosis surgery is a complex procedure that aims to correct the curvature of the spine in teens and kids, especially in cases of idiopathic scoliosis where the cause is unknown. The surgery is considered a high priority for patients with severe curves that could progress and impact their spinal motion and overall health. Although the rate of complications has significantly decreased due to modern surgical techniques, it’s crucial to understand the importance of this surgery and its potential impact on the patient’s life.

The main goal of scoliosis surgery is to halt the progression of the spinal curve and prevent further health issues. By utilizing spinal implants, bone graft, and surgical repair, surgeons aim to achieve a correct position of the spinal column, reducing the risk of complications and promoting bone growth. It’s important to empathetically address the concerns and fears of scoliosis patients undergoing this surgery, considering the rare cases of surgical complications and the need for additional surgeries to address them.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal sideward curvature of the spine. It can lead to back pain, breathing difficulties, and spinal deformity. Typically occurring during the growth spurt before puberty, scoliosis can be idiopathic, neuromuscular, congenital, or degenerative. Diagnosis involves physical exams, imaging tests, and spinal evaluations.

Risks Of Adolescent Scoliosis Surgery

The Need for Scoliosis Surgery

In cases where the curve progresses despite other treatments, surgery is recommended to address idiopathic scoliosis. The main objective of scoliosis surgery is to realign the spine and prevent any further curvature, particularly for severe cases causing pain and potential risks. When deciding on surgery, it’s essential to consider the individual’s age and the severity of the curve to determine the best course of action. Despite surgery being a high priority, non-surgical options such as bracing are initially explored to manage the condition and avoid additional surgery. This decision-making process is often accompanied by a sense of urgency and empathy, as teens, kids, and their parents weigh the rate of complications against the potential benefits of surgical repair.

Scoliosis Boot Camp: An Alternative to Scoliosis Surgery

Taking a proactive approach to address the risks associated with scoliosis surgery in adolescents becomes a necessity. Scoliosis boot camp emerges as a non-surgical alternative, integrating physical therapy and corrective exercises to alleviate the need for surgical intervention. By focusing on improved posture and reduced pain, scoliosis boot camp offers a compelling argument for individuals seeking to avoid the potential complications of surgery. The success stories of those who have opted for this alternative route serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement for scoliosis patients considering their treatment options. In many cases, the ScoliSMART Activity Suit is used in combination with the Boot Camp program to further improve the amount of curve reduction and increase the likelihood of success. Consulting with a ScoliSMART doctor is of high priority, allowing for personalized assessments and informed decisions tailored to individual cases of scoliosis, ultimately prioritizing the best course of action.


Schedule your no-cost, no-obligation phone or Zoom consultation online with a ScoliSMART Clinic. 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!

Common Complications Associated with Scoliosis Surgery

Scoliosis surgery, while often necessary, presents risks and potential complications that should be carefully considered by patients and their families. Idiopathic scoliosis, a common problem in scoliosis patients, may require surgical repair to correct the position of the spinal column. However, this procedure comes with high risk, including the possibility of rare cases such as dural tear or fractured bone. Additionally, modern surgical techniques have minimized complications, but there is still a chance of deeper wound infections or the need for an additional surgery. The circulation of blood and blood supply to the affected leg are crucial during the surgical process, including the potential need for blood transfusions, to avoid any complications in the postoperative phase. Spinal implants, commonly used in such surgeries, carry the risk of implant migration or stainless steel-related complications. It’s essential for healthcare professionals to empathetically communicate these risks to patients and their families, ensuring they have a clear understanding of the potential complications associated with scoliosis surgery.

In surgical procedures like scoliosis surgery, anesthesia-related complications are a cause for concern. These complications may involve allergic reactions and airway issues, requiring close monitoring to minimize potential risks. The anesthesiologist plays a critical role in ensuring the patient’s comfort and safety during the anesthesia process, specifically with the use of general anesthesia. It is essential for patients and caregivers to understand the anesthesia process and its potential risks to actively participate in their care. Clear communication with the medical team is crucial for addressing any concerns related to general anesthesia and its complications.

Anesthesia-related Complications

Bleeding and Blood Clots

During scoliosis surgery, the management of blood loss is crucial to prevent complications. Patients are at risk of post-surgery blood clotting issues, such as deep venous thrombosis, which require attentive care. Preventive measures, including the use of blood thinners, may be employed to minimize clotting risks. It’s vital to monitor blood circulation and clotting processes during the surgical procedure, including any potential injury to blood vessels, to prevent potential complications. Patients are educated about the signs of blood clotting and the significance of early intervention, ensuring they are well-informed and empowered in their recovery process.

Mechanical Complications

Implant displacement or hardware issues are common mechanical complications that may arise post-scoliosis surgery. Regular follow-ups and imaging tests are crucial for early detection of potential implant migration, ensuring timely intervention. Patients are educated on recognizing signs of implant-related complications, empowering them to seek prompt medical attention if needed. Understanding the potential for hardware issues plays a pivotal role in proactive management, allowing for better outcomes and improved quality of life for scoliosis patients. Modern surgical techniques and the use of advanced implant materials contribute significantly to reducing the risk of mechanical complications, emphasizing the importance of staying updated with the latest advancements in spinal surgery.

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Medical Complications

After scoliosis surgery, the risk of infections at the surgical site is a common concern among patients. Nerve damage, spinal cord injury, and pulmonary complications are potential risks that need close monitoring and postoperative care for management. Patients are provided with comprehensive information on infection prevention strategies. Recognizing the signs of medical complications, such as redness, swelling, and oozing of clear liquid, is crucial for timely intervention, helping to address any such concerns promptly. This ensures that the recovery process is as smooth as possible for scoliosis patients, minimizing the impact of medical complications on their overall well-being.

Postoperative Risks and Their Management

After scoliosis surgery, there can be various postoperative risks that need to be managed effectively. Infection is a significant concern, and the correct position of spinal implants is crucial in preventing deeper wound infections. Patients may also experience deeper infections or rare cases of dural tear, requiring additional surgery for surgical repair. Managing these risks involves close monitoring of the affected area of the spinal cord, with a high priority on circulation of blood and blood supply to avoid cases of spinal surgery-related complications. Additionally, ensuring spinal motion and bone growth is essential while also minimizing the risk of fractured bone or false joint development. It’s important for healthcare providers to address these postoperative risks empathetically and provide the necessary support for scoliosis patients as they navigate through their recovery journey.

Postoperative Risks and Their Management


Post-surgery, scoliosis patients are at risk of developing surgical site infections, which demand prompt management to prevent complications. Deep wound infections can significantly jeopardize the surgical area and impede the patient’s recovery, emphasizing the need for vigilant postoperative care. Proper wound care plays a pivotal role in mitigating the risk of infections, highlighting its significance as a preventive measure. Patients are educated on identifying signs of infection and the crucial importance of reporting them promptly for early intervention. The comprehensive postoperative care protocol is designed to minimize the occurrence of surgical site infections, prioritizing the well-being of scoliosis patients during the recovery process.

Persistent Pain

Chronic pain following scoliosis surgery can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life, affecting daily activities and emotional well-being. Effective post-surgery pain management is crucial to ensure the patient’s comfort and overall recovery process. Addressing persistent pain may necessitate a multidisciplinary approach, involving medication, physical therapy, and psychological support. This comprehensive strategy is vital for the long-term success of scoliosis surgery, taking into account the impact on the patient’s well-being and recovery journey.

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Nerve and Spinal Cord Complications

Nerve and spinal cord complications, also known as Transitional Syndrome, can be distressing for scoliosis patients, often involving nerve injury or spinal cord injury. These complications may lead to persistent pain or even paralysis in rare cases. When the entire spine is healthy, each segment works together to share the load throughout the spinal column. Each segment works with its neighboring segment to share the stresses that movements and forces impose. Spinal surgeries carry a high risk of dural tear, affecting the protective layer surrounding the spinal cord. Modern surgical techniques strive to minimize these risks, but they remain a concern for scoliosis patients. Complications can also arise from spinal implants, such as stainless steel rods, which carry the risk of fracture or migration, leading to additional surgery to correct the position. Managing these complications requires a deeper understanding of the spinal anatomy and careful consideration of the long-term implications for scoliosis patients, emphasizing the need for informed decision-making and ongoing support.

Nerve Injury

Experiencing nerve injury during scoliosis surgery can lead to sensory or motor deficits in the affected area. The complexity of the spinal deformity and the surgical procedure can significantly impact the risk of nerve injury. It’s crucial to recognize that rehabilitation and physical therapy play a vital role in the recovery process following nerve injury. In some cases, nerve injury may necessitate additional surgical interventions or specialized rehabilitation programs. Maintaining open communication between the surgical team and the patient is essential for effectively managing the effects of nerve injury. Understanding the potential implications of nerve injury and the available support systems is key to providing empathetic and comprehensive care to scoliosis patients undergoing surgery.

Nerve Injury

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury, while uncommon, presents serious scoliosis surgery risks, demanding immediate attention. Careful assessment of this risk is integral to the surgical planning and execution stages, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures. Comprehensive rehabilitation and supportive care play a vital role in the holistic approach to managing spinal cord injury, underscoring the need for a multidisciplinary support system. Equally critical is the education of patients and their caregivers about the potential signs and symptoms of spinal cord injury to facilitate early intervention. The collaborative efforts of the healthcare team, the patient, and their family are paramount in navigating the challenges posed by spinal cord injury, encompassing emotional support and informed decision-making.

Implants and fusion in spine surgery can pose potential risks that patients and their families should be aware of. The fusion process involves placing a bone graft between the vertebrae, but there is always a risk of the bone not fusing properly, leading to a false joint or fractured bone. Implants made of stainless steel or other materials may also carry a risk of fracture, migration, or causing extra stress on the spinal column. Additionally, surgeries involving the spinal implants and fusion carry a risk of infection, including deeper wound infections and cases of spinal surgery leading to a dural tear, affecting the circulation of blood or the spinal cord. It’s essential for scoliosis patients to understand the potential complications associated with implants and fusion, highlighting the need for modern surgical techniques and high vigilance on the part of both the surgical team and the patient’s support system.

Delayed Union or Nonunion

Delayed union or nonunion of the spinal fusion site can significantly impact the patient’s recovery, leading to prolonged discomfort and potential complications. It’s crucial to closely monitor and intervene timely to address any signs of delayed union or nonunion at the fusion site. Rehabilitation and physical therapy play a pivotal role in promoting successful spinal fusion, aiding in the restoration of spinal motion and strengthening the spinal column. Educating patients about the contributing factors and the importance of adherence to post-operative care is a vital aspect of their recovery journey. Collaboration between the surgical team and the patient is essential in effectively managing delayed union or nonunion, ensuring that the patient feels supported and well-informed throughout the process.

Delayed Union or Nonunion

Hardware Fracture

Patients who undergo surgery are often informed about the potential risk of hardware fracture, which may necessitate prompt evaluation and intervention. The surgical planning process takes into account the careful consideration of this risk to mitigate its occurrence. It is crucial for patients and their families to be aware of the signs and symptoms of hardware fracture, ensuring timely intervention and management. Rehabilitation and physical therapy can be tailored to address the specific challenges associated with hardware fracture, aiding in the recovery process. Additionally, building a supportive network and fostering open communication can significantly help patients navigate the potential impact of hardware fracture, providing them with the necessary support and empathy during their recovery journey.

Implant Migration

Implant migration, though uncommon, demands vigilant monitoring and, if necessary, corrective surgery. The assessment of implant migration risk hinges on the patient’s distinct anatomical factors and surgical history. Educating patients about potential indicators of implant migration constitutes a crucial facet of post-operative care. Collaborative decision-making between patients and the healthcare team plays a pivotal role in addressing implant migration. Timely identification of implant migration can enable prompt intervention and favorable outcomes for the patient.

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Long Term Consequences of Scoliosis Surgery

Scoliosis surgery risks in adolescents may lead to long-term consequences that are important to consider. One of the potential long-term effects is sexual dysfunction, which can significantly impact the quality of life for scoliosis patients. It is essential to address this aspect and provide support for individuals who may experience such consequences. Additionally, understanding how these risks can be mitigated and managed is of high priority in ensuring the overall well-being of patients who undergo surgery.

Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction, while rare, has the potential to be a long-term consequence of surgery, impacting the emotional and psychological well-being of patients. It is crucial to establish open communication and provide clear information to address this potential impact, ensuring comprehensive support for individuals experiencing sexual dysfunction. Collaborative care, including counseling and specialized support, plays a vital role in assisting patients dealing with this sensitive issue. Empowering patients with knowledge and resources is fundamental in taking a holistic approach to address sexual dysfunction, offering them the support they need for their overall well-being.

counseling and specialized support

How Can These Risks be Mitigated?

To mitigate the risks associated with surgery, it is crucial to choose an experienced surgeon who specializes in this type of surgery. Discuss the potential risks and benefits with your doctor beforehand and carefully follow post-operative care instructions. Regular follow-up appointments will help monitor progress and address any concerns


In conclusion, while surgery is a recommended option for treating severe cases, it is crucial to be aware of the potential risks and complications associated with the procedure. From anesthesia-related complications to nerve and spinal cord injuries, there are several hidden risks that need to be considered. However, it’s important to note that not all patients will experience these complications, and many successful surgeries have been performed with positive outcomes. To mitigate these risks, it is essential for patients to communicate openly with their healthcare providers, follow postoperative guidelines, and attend regular follow-up appointments. By being informed and proactive, individuals can make well-informed decisions about their treatment and take steps to minimize any potential risks.