Scoliosis, a condition that causes the spine to curve and twist in many places, can be a very uncomfortable health issue. Most commonly, this condition begins at birth and the cause is usually unknown. There have been few links between scoliosis and genetics, and cases are most frequent in female. The word “scoliosis” is of Greek origin and means “crooked condition”.
Because scoliosis is a condition that is discovered at birth, cases are most common among small children, and unfortunately, surgery is the normal treatment. Usually, if any given curvature of the spine is over a 40 or 50 degrees angle, doctors will recommend surgery to help straighten the curves, thus providing a more comfortable lifestyle for the patient. Before surgery, the patient will usually receive some education about the procedure and recovery. This helps them to feel more secure about undergoing a major operation.
The surgery itself is known as one of the most complicated surgeries and can last up to 6 hours. Hospitalization can be anywhere from 5 to 8 days, depending on the case. The surgeon begins by making several long incisions in down the center of the back. In severe cases, where curvature is very extreme, additional incisions may be made on the side of the body, yet this is not always necessary.
For repairing the spine and helping to straighten, surgeons use a two-rod system often referred to as “spinal fusion” or “instrumentation”. The rods are inserted into the back and are affixed to the spine, helping to hold it straight. The rods also serve as a support for the spine to fuse to, which will help future curving and bending. This process was created in 1984 by two French surgeons and has changed the lives of thousands of scoliosis patients since. There can be some minor issues with bending and moving freely after surgery, but this decreases over time.
Once the rods are screwed into the spine, the fusion process begins to take place and the spine curvature may decrease considerably. This surgery is not 100 percent effective, however, in most cases, the results are quite noticeable. Because so many cases of scoliosis are diagnosed in young, growing children, there are special rods that can be used in the surgery. The rods, commonly referred to as “growing rods” are expandable in the center and can be adjusted over time as the child grows. Scoliosis in children can have negative effects on the heart and lung development due to growing and the curving of the spine. Because of this, growing rods are put in place during the instrumentation process to prevent any future complications.
Prescribed treatment will depend on the determination of the cause of the headaches with neck pain; often treatment is quite successful. Typical treatments include:
After surgery, the patient will notice that the spine has straightened quite a bit. There may be some pain or discomfort for a few days, but this is usually regulated by pain medications during and after hospitalization. There will be scaring on the back or side from the incisions, but this will disappear over time. As the fusion process takes place in the back, a more permanent straightening of the spine begins.
Written By: Updated: June 30,2011