More likely to occur in children during the growth spurt prior to puberty, scoliosis is a condition that can affect all levels of the spine in both children and adults living with an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. When the condition is mild or moderate, treatment may involve periodic monitoring or bracing. If the curvature becomes more severe or related discomfort is more disruptive to daily life, surgery might be discussed. As with any type of spine-related procedure, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with scoliosis surgery.
• All types of scoliosis are correctable – Surgery can be performed to correct all variations and types of scoliosis, including functional and non-functional. Curvatures that bend from side to side (lateral curvatures) and ones that are more prominent are also correctable with surgery.
• Low risk of recurrence – Because of the way scoliosis surgery is typically performed, the spine isn’t likely to become misaligned in the same area after surgery. However, it’s still important to take precautions such as maintaining good posture.
• Considerations for growing patients – If scoliosis surgery is performed on children or teens, an adjustable rod that can be lengthened every six months or so is often inserted.
• Minimally invasive surgical options – Because of advances in technology, surgery for scoliosis increasingly involves minimally invasive techniques done with smaller incisions, which usually means fewer risks and shorter recovery times.
• Less risk to nearby structures – Less-invasive surgical techniques also reduce the risk of damage to nearby parts of the spine, including adjacent discs and nerves. In some instances, smaller hardware may be used to further ease stress on other parts of the spine.
• High success rates – Most patients respond well to surgery for scoliosis, often experiencing fewer instances of spine-related pain and noticeable improvements with mobility and flexibility.
• Complexity of the procedure – Several factors determine how scoliosis surgery is performed, including age of the patient, location of the affected part of the spine, and overall health. With some curvatures, more complex procedures need to be performed. Even so, steps are often taken to minimize risks as much as possible with any type of scoliosis surgery.
• Slow healing – If surgery is more complex in nature, there may be a longer healing and recovery process involved. However, patients can make the post-surgery recovery period more productive by actively participating in physical therapy and following doctor’s instructions.
• Stress on nearby parts of the spine – Depending on what area of the spine needs to be corrected, surgery sometimes weakens other spinal segments or stresses nearby vertebrae. However, doctors typically carefully monitor adjacent areas of the spine to look for signs of weakness or instability.
Approximately 90 percent of scoliosis cases are mild enough not to require active treatment. However, it’s possible for mild abnormal curvatures to become more of a problem later in life as the spine changes with age. If you’re still at a point where surgery isn’t necessary, you may benefit from a personalized exercise routine and other methods. If symptom management is becoming increasingly difficult, consult a Santa Monica spine surgeon.
If you want to learn more about scoliosis surgery, get in touch with The Spine Institute. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of professional surgeons have years of experience in a wide array of surgical procedures such as anterior lumbar interbody fusion and artificial disc replacement surgery. Santa Monica residents can call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.