Preparing for Scoliosis Surgery & Post-Surgical Recovery
Scoliosis is a condition where a person’s spine twists and curves to the side. While it can affect people of any age, it typically starts in children and young adolescents aged 10 to 15. Signs of scoliosis include a visibly curved spine, obvious leaning to one side or uneven shoulders, one side’s shoulder, hip, or ribs sticking out, and clothes not fitting correctly. Back pain may also be experienced and is usually more common in adults than children.
This condition can improve with treatment options such as scoliosis surgery, but it is not always a sign of anything serious. You may not need treatment if the case is mild. However, you may opt for surgery if your situation calls for it. Your treatment options will depend on your age, how severe your spine’s curve is, and whether it’s likely to worsen with time.
Keep reading to learn more about scoliosis surgery and post-surgical recovery.
Types of Scoliosis Surgery
There are three general types of scoliosis surgery: fusion, growing systems, and fusionless.
During spinal fusion surgery, two or more adjacent vertebrae are permanently fused to grow together at the spinal joint and form a solid bone that no longer moves. Compared to past techniques, modern spinal fusion approaches and instrumentation—such as rods, wires, screws, or hooks placed in the spine—have allowed surgeons to achieve superior curvature correction and quicker recovery times.
One advantage to spinal fusion surgery is its long-term record of safety and efficacy for treating scoliosis. However, it’s important to note that fused vertebrae may lose mobility, limiting some of the back’s bending and twisting ability.
In this type of scoliosis surgery, a surgeon anchors rods to the spine to help correct and maintain the spine’s curvature as a child grows. Every 6 to 12 months, they will have another surgery to lengthen the rods to keep up with the spine’s growth. As the patient approaches skeletal maturity, they typically undergo spinal fusion.
One risk of this spinal fusion is the complications resulting from the surgery being performed too young (i.e., under age 10 in girls or under age 12 in boys). This could leave less room for lung development and cause the child to have a short trunk compared to their limbs. On the other hand, growing systems can help guide the spine as it matures, eventually preparing it for fusion if required.
Today’s fusionless surgery methods employ growth modulation on the spine by applying pressure on the outer side of a spinal curve. By doing so, the surgeon aims to slow or stop the growth of the curve’s outer side while the curve’s inner side continues to grow normally. This should reduce the lateral curvature as the spine becomes straighter. One current fusionless method uses a vertebral tethering system, in which screws are placed on the outer side of the curve and then pulled taut with a cord to strengthen the spine.
Fusionless surgery may potentially retain more spinal mobility than spinal fusion. However, this approach is still new, and more long-term data is needed to understand its risks and benefits fully.
Scoliosis Surgery Risks to Consider
Scoliosis surgery risks may include complications such as infection, blood loss, or nerve damage, as well as loss of spinal balance, hardware failure, or failure of the bones to fuse and heal properly. Consult with your doctor to address any concerns you may have as you prepare for scoliosis surgery and receive a complete list of important medical information about the procedure.
Post-Scoliosis Surgery Recovery Tips
Scoliosis surgery can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life, but it’s still a major procedure that can temporarily disrupt one’s routine. Tips for a swift scoliosis surgery recovery include:
- Deciding ahead of time who will be able to assist the patient with everyday tasks, such as driving to follow-up appointments and running errands
- Avoiding carrying heavy items (e.g., kids and adolescents should opt for a rolling backpack when they return to school rather than a heavy backpack)
- Avoiding bending, lifting, or twisting
- Checking in frequently with your doctor to ensure your scoliosis recovery process is going smoothly
Learn More About Scoliosis Surgery with Rutgers North Jersey Orthopaedic Institute
The Rutgers North Jersey Orthopaedic Institute provides patients with state-of-the-art treatment and care for their orthopaedic ailments. Our physicians in the Spine division specialize in diagnosing and treating a range of conditions related to the spine, providing services including Botox, disc replacement, trigger point injections, and more.
Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians today to learn more about how we can treat scoliosis and other spinal conditions.