Scoliosis Surgery

Scoliosis refers to an abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine which can throw off balance, impair walking, and cause pain.

Who Gets Scoliosis?

Scoliosis can affect people of any age but it is most common among adolescents.

  • Congenital scoliosis refers to scoliosis a person has from birth.
  • Juvenile scoliosis is scoliosis that occurs in children.
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) occurs in adolescents for “no known reason” (idiopathic).
  • Adults may develop scoliosis either from degenerative disc disease or arthritis or because they had untreated scoliosis as children.

Scoliosis Surgery

Not every person with scoliosis will require surgery. In fact less than 1% of individuals with a diagnosis of scoliosis will require surgery.  Many patients, particularly younger ones, can be effectively treated with braces. If you have scoliosis, the University Spine Center team will examine you and determine the best course of treatment based on the degree of your scoliosis and other factors, such as your age and general health.

Many people with scoliosis may require surgical intervention. Scoliosis surgery is performed under general anesthesia in order to

  • Keep the curve from getting worse.
  • Stabilize the spine.
  • Correct the deformity.

How Scoliosis Surgery is Performed

Before surgery, the University Spine Center surgeon will determine the best surgical approach. This may be from the front, back, or side.

During surgery, a video X-ray called a fluoroscope is used to help the surgeon visualize the spine at all times. Depending on the patient, one or more discs may be removed (discectomy) or some of the vertebra may be cut into more wedge-shaped forms (osteotomy). In some cases, scoliosis surgery may be performed minimally invasively, that is, through a very small incision and take very little time. In other cases, scoliosis surgery is performed as an open procedure and can take longer.

Scoliosis surgery involves fusion, which means that spinal instrumentation (such as screws, pins, rods, plates) are implanted to secure vertebrae to each other. Bone graft material is packed in the empty space between the upper and lower vertebral bodies and around the instrumentation. The bone graft stimulates the fusion or joining of the vertebrae.

Bone Grafts

Scoliosis surgery requires a bone graft. There are several different types of bone graft. The University Spine Center will discuss the most appropriate type for your procedure.

  • Autograft is bone taken from the patient. The autograft may be bone taken from the patient’s neck area during a laminectomy or it may be bone taken in a separate procedure from another part of the body, such as the hip.
  • Allograft is bone from a donor.
  • Bone graft material, which can be synethetic (manmade).
  • Following Surgery
  • After surgery, X-rays are taken in order to be sure the curve is corrected and that any instrumentation (rods, screws) and graft are in the right place. The incision is then closed and bandaged.

The patient recovers in a special recovery area, where a University Spine Center recovery team monitors the patient’s vital signs and recovery. Postsurgical pain is typical following scoliosis surgery and is usually managed effectively with pain medication.