Surgical Procedures for Scoliosis
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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:
The type of surgery done will depend on your child's age.
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. Fusion surgery is only considered in children who are older than 8 years of age. It is most likely to be done in adolescents who are close to full growth.
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.
Thoracoscopic Anterior Instrumentation
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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Last reviewed May 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 5/16/2017
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