It is estimated that scoliosis affects about two to three percent of the United States population, or six to nine million people. Although the majority of scoliosis cases are diagnosed in children and adolescents, adults are also susceptible to the spinal condition. Scoliosis is diagnosed in individuals who have a curvature of the spine that is sideways by at least 10 degrees. Unfortunately, we do not know exactly why scoliosis occurs, only that is can develop in infancy, adolescence, or later in life.
If you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, the first step is learning how to properly manage it. In many cases, no treatment is necessary and the spine is able to correct itself in time or with the help of bracing. However, others require a more rigorous treatment plan that often includes scoliosis surgery. Perhaps the most common type of surgical scoliosis treatment is a spinal fusion, which uses a combination of instruments to carefully move the spine back into normal alignment.
When is Scoliosis Surgery Recommended?
Scoliosis in children is the single most common type of spinal deformity. It is believed that more than 133,000 children go to the hospital every year because of scoliosis, 17,500 of which are emergency room visits. Even though that it is the case, scoliosis surgery is considered a last resort and is only recommended for children with spinal curves that exceed 45 degrees. Some of the other considerations when it comes to surgery as a scoliosis treatment include:
- Is your spine maturing or growing?
- Where is the location of the curve in your spine?
- Is there a high chance that the curve is going to get worse?
- How does the curvature of your spine affect your overall quality of life?
These are just a handful of the questions that should be answered before moving forward with scoliosis surgery. We encourage you to discuss your case with Dr. Atwater and ensure you understand the benefits and risks of surgery for scoliosis in children and adults.
What to Expect
If Dr. Atwater and your medical team has decided that scoliosis surgery is the best form of treatment for your condition, there are a handful of things you should expect. Again, surgery is only recommended for severe cases of scoliosis where the curves are at least 45 degrees and are not responding to bracing or other management solutions.
What you can expect from scoliosis surgery will depend on the technique used, the patient’s age and medical history, and the exact curvature of the spine. The two different options for scoliosis surgery are:
- Posterior spinal fusion
- Anterior spinal fusion
In the former, the surgeon enters through the back, attaching metal rods to the spine and using a bone graft to fuse the spine together. If the anterior approach is preferred, the surgeon will enter through the chest walls, moving ribs to get the spine, deflating the lungs, and making incision on either side of the chest.
Recovery from Scoliosis Surgery
The majority of patients who undergo scoliosis surgery will be back to work and school within two to four weeks. In the best case scenario, the patient will be nearly 100 percent back to their normal daily activities in a matter of months. And in about 10 months many people have been able to perform more laborious activities such as basketball, skiing, gymnastics, and other extreme sports. In order to ensure you make a full recovery, it is imperative you follow the at-home care instructions, especially for the first two months.
If you or your child are suffering from this common curvature of the spine and would like to learn more about scoliosis treatment options, including surgery, please contact Dr. Atwater at Ortho Spine America today.