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The different pros and cons of a scoliosis operation are important to consider, and are things that should be discussed at length with the surgeon. The pros to a scoliosis operation are that it is generally a very effective way to correct the condition and prevent its return, and that it can help to relieve pain caused by scoliosis as well as any organ compression that is occurring due to the spinal curvature. The cons of an operation for scoliosis are more numerous, and include inherent risks from surgery, lifelong limitations to flexibility, pain and complications requiring further treatment, and the cost of the surgery itself, among others.
A scoliosis operation is typically not recommended unless the curve or curves are extreme, typically more than 40 or 50 degrees. This can be determined through an X-ray, and the doctor will then make a recommendation for surgery. Alternative treatments, such as bracing and physical therapy, can also be effective in some cases of scoliosis, but again, in some severe cases in both children and adults, surgery may really be the only option. This is especially true if the condition is affecting growth and development, causing pain, or is compressing organs such as the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. The obvious pro to a scoliosis surgery, which typically involves a combination of spinal fusion and metal instrumentation for support, is that it effectively corrects the condition, returning the spine to its natural state, and in most cases prevents it from ever returning in the future.
It is important to keep in mind that a scoliosis operation is an extensive and, like any surgical procedure, inherently risky undertaking. Incisions are typically made in the back, except in severe cases where frontal incisions may be needed as well, and complications are possible that may require further surgeries. Adjustments may also be required in the future, as the child continues to grow. The surgery generally requires a week in the hospital, followed by six months to a year of recovery; sometimes, a brace is required to further stabilize the spine while it is healing. The healing process can be quite painful, though it is managed with IV medication in the hospital and prescription painkillers while at home.
Some people find that they have limited flexibility throughout their lives after the operation, due to the metal rods often placed in the spine. A scoliosis operation is also generally very expensive, so it will be important to have good health insurance. There are pros and cons to spinal surgery, and it is important to fully understand the risks as well as the realistic expected outcome before undertaking it. As with any serious medical procedure, it never hurts to get a second opinion from another specialist before making a final decision.