Surgery for Scoliosis: What to Expect

Surgery is an option used primarily for severe scoliosis (curves greater than 45 degrees) or for curves that do not respond to bracing. Surgery generally has two main goals: to stop a curve from progressing and to correct spinal deformity.

There are various techniques used for scoliosis surgery. One type of surgery involves posterior spinal fusion with instrumentation and bone grafting. This surgery is performed through the patient's back while the patient lies on his or her stomach.

During this type of surgery, the surgeon attaches a metal rod to each side of the patient's spine by using hooks or screws attached to the vertebral bodies. Then, the surgeon fuses the spine with a piece of bone from the patient's hip (a bone graft).

The bone grows in between the vertebrae and holds them together and straight. This process is called spinal fusion. The metal rods attached to the spine ensure that the backbone remains straight while the spinal fusion takes place.

The operation can take several hours. With recent advances in technology, patients are sometimes released from the hospital within a week of surgery, and do not require post-operative bracing. Some patients are able to return to school or work 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery. Many are able to resume all pre-operative activities within 4 to 6 months.

Another surgery option for scoliosis is an anterior approach, which means that the surgery is conducted through the chest walls, instead of through the patient's back. The patient lies on his or her side during the surgery. During this procedure, the surgeon makes incisions in the patient's side, deflates the lung, and removes a rib in order to reach the spine.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

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