Scoliosis rods are used by surgeons to correct an S-shaped or C-shaped curvature of the spine that could worsen as a child or adolescent grows. The rods are attached to screws implanted on both sides of the vertebrae where the curve exists. The part of the spine fused with scoliosis rods stops growing, and it is important to consider the age of the child and the severity of the deformity when considering scoliosis treatment. Scoliosis rods can be surgically embedded from the front of the body or the back.
The condition commonly surfaces in a child's early teenage years when he or she is experiencing rapid growth. Spinal curves might get worse as the child matures, and can provoke pain and improper alignment of the hips and back. A surgeon measures the degree of curvature and the level of pain to determine if scoliosis rods will correct the problem. The cause of scoliosis is unknown, but it is more common in girls than boys.
Generally, a curve of 10 degrees or less is considered minor and does not require correction in a child or adult. There is no way to predict, however, whether a 10-degree spinal curve in a child will progress with rapid growth. Less than 30 degrees is also considered mild in an adult unless the scoliosis is causing considerable pain. Any curvature that exceeds 50 degrees is deemed severe and treated with scoliosis surgery to prevent breathing problems and serious pain.
During posterior scoliosis surgery, performed from the back, screws or hooks are attached to the vertebrae. Scoliosis rods are inserted through holes in the screws to reposition the crooked part of spine. Sometimes, bone grafts are used to speed the fusion of vertebrae into the desired alignment. The grafts are commonly taken from the pelvic or rib area.
Anterior surgery is preferred for adults and scoliosis that appears in the middle or lower section of the spine. In this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the front of the body to remove spinal discs, which creates a more pliable spine. Bone grafts fill gaps that remain. Scoliosis rods are connected by screws, which are then tightened to straighten the backbone. Both the posterior and anterior methods are considered major surgery requiring long recovery periods.
A less invasive option for children and teens consists of a scoliosis brace that must be worn a minimum of 16 hours each day. Scoliosis braces sometimes work to prevent a spine with minimal curvature from progressing to a point that requires surgery. The braces are bulky and uncomfortable, and offer no guarantee of success.