Scoliosis of the spine is a complex deformity that results in a sideways curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can be present at birth or it can develop during infancy, childhood, or adolescence. Most often, the cause is unknown, though in some cases it is secondary to other conditions such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy. The signs and symptoms include uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other or uneven waist or hips.
Treatment is determined by the severity of the curvature, the age of onset, and the likelihood that the curvature will get significantly worse. In most cases, treatment does not require surgery; instead noninvasive methods are used such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic therapy, and bracing.
In situations where the curves would be cosmetically unacceptable as an adult, or curves that affect other physiological functions such as breathing, surgery becomes necessary. Scoliosis of the spine surgery is typically an extensive process. Understanding this process can help you prepare for the experience.
There are two ways in which surgery can be done: through an incision along the side of the chest wall, or through an incision on the back. Sometimes both procedures are needed. The surgery may be done in one or two stages, and on average each procedure takes four to eight hours. Spinal fusion is a core component of surgery. Bone is grafted to the vertebrae so that when it heals, it will form one solid bone mass. This prevents worsening of the curve. Modern spinal systems involve a combination of rods, screws, hooks and wires fixing the spine.
In general, patients with fused spines and permanent implants tend to have normal lives with unrestricted activities. Because these procedures are relatively new, it is unknown whether patients develop any problems due to the surgery as they reach old age.
If you are going to undergo scoliosis surgery, discuss the procedure and specific risks with your doctor.