Surgery is usually reserved for severe cases of scoliosis with a degree of curvature over 40°-50°.
The goals of surgery are to:
Many types of techniques can be used for scoliosis. These techniques have some or all of the following in common:
Spinal fusion surgery involves joining together adjacent vertebrae to result in growth into one solid bone. This results in permanent restrictions on certain types of movement. The restriction depends on how many bones are fused together. Hardware is used to keep the spine in place while the bones fuse together.
This is one of the most common surgeries performed for scoliosis. This type of surgery is a posterior spinal fusion. A metal rod is attached to each side of the spine by using hooks attached to the vertebral bodies. The spine is then fused with a piece of bone from the hip area. The bone grows in between the vertebrae and holds them together and straight. The metal rods attached to the spine help the backbone remain straight while the spinal fusion takes place.
Small incisions are made for insertion of a thoracoscope and surgical instruments. Thoracoscopic surgery is less invasive, but in some studies surgery and recovery times appear to be longer than conventional surgery. Although there are some benefits to this type of surgery, serious post-surgical complications are possible. If this surgical procedure is an option for your child, be sure to weigh out all the options with the doctor.
Non-fusion surgical procedures are designed to help the curve correct itself over time. These procedures do not restrict movement once the spine has healed. Some of these are somewhat new procedures, and may not be available everywhere.
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Idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00353. Updated March 2010. Accessed November 22, 2013.
Kim KT, Park KJ, et al. Osteotomy of the spine to correct spinal deformity. Asian Spine J. 2009;3(2):113-123.
Maruyama T, Takeshita K. Surgical treatments of scoliosis: A review of techniques currently applied. Scoliosis. 2008;3:6.
Reddi V, Clarke DV Jr, et al. Anterior thoracoscopic instrumentation in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: a systematic review. 2008;33(18):1986-1994.
Scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated October 29, 2013. Accessed November 22, 2013.
Trobisch P, Suess O, et al. Idiopathic scoliosis. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2010 Dec;107(49):875-883.
Last reviewed November 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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