Scoliosis: When Is Spine Surgery Necessary?

Although there is no clear understanding what causes scoliosis in children and adolescents, most surgeons who specialize in scoliosis surgery are in agreement about when it’s necessary.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine and is most often diagnosed in children and adolescents. Many cases of scoliosis are mild and can be treated with bracing to prevent the curve from getting worse.

Unfortunately, the curvature can continue to progress as the person grows. Severe scoliosis can cause problems with the lungs, as it can reduce the amount of space within the chest. In this case, surgery may be performs a medical examination on a patient diagnosed with scoliosis

Signs Of Scoliosis

There are some classic signs that a child or teen has scoliosis, including the following:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Uneven waist
  • One side of the rib cage protruding forward
  • One hip higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade more prominent than the other
  • A prominence on one side of the back when bending forward

The changes can occur so gradually that it’s sometimes hard to spot, but scoliosis can become more noticeable especially in the summer when wearing a bathing suit. Many times a coach, teacher, or friend can notice it first.

If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with Spine & Scoliosis Specialists.

When Is Spine Surgery Necessary?

Once surgery is recommended, its goal is to stop the curve from progressing into adulthood and to reduce any spinal deformity. With today’s technology, surgeons are able to significantly improve the curve.

Most spinal surgeons agree that when the spine is curved 45 to 50ᐤ or higher, surgery is needed to prevent any further curving because it will get worse as an adult. Children who have surgery between ages 3 and 10 have the best long term results.

The surgery itself is a spinal fusion. This realigns and fuses together the curved vertebrae in order that they heal together as a solid bone. Surgeons use a bone graft to promote the fusion and sometimes use metal rods.

The success of spinal surgery for scoliosis depends on the flexibility of the curve. Post surgery doctors want to have a curve <25ᐤ. At that curvature it is hardly noticeable.

What To Expect

Expect the following:

  • The patient will have pain for several weeks to months.
  • Back pain will be better than before in one year.
  • Surgery can last 4 – 8 hours.
  • Pain meds can be discontinued at 3 to 6 weeks after surgery.
  • Patients may need physical therapy, but most can walk when discharged from the hospital.

Contact Spine & Scoliosis Specialists at 336.333.6306 for an evaluation and more information if you suspect you or your child may have scoliosis.