What is Scoliosis Correction Surgery? (with pictures)

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Scoliosis causes curvature of the spine.
Scoliosis causes curvature of the spine.

Scoliosis is a medical condition in which, for unknown reasons, the spine develops an abnormal curvature. It typically sets in during childhood or adolescence, and in some cases progresses until the spine is significantly curved, threatening sufferers’ health and self-esteem. In these extreme cases, scoliosis correction surgery can be a good option to restore a normal spinal shape and prevent further curvature. This surgery involves attaching metal rods to the spine to straighten and fuse the vertebrae, thus discouraging future curvature. While scoliosis correction surgery is an invasive procedure with a substantial recovery time, in the long run it can significantly improve the health and well-being of those with scoliosis.

In extreme cases, scoliosis correction surgery may be needed to restore a normal spinal shape.
In extreme cases, scoliosis correction surgery may be needed to restore a normal spinal shape.

When the spine of an individual with scoliosis reaches a curvature of more than 40 degrees, her health may begin to suffer. A bent back or twisted ribcage can cause severe pain and put pressure on the internal organs, impairing their function. The lungs may become compressed, making breathing difficult. Further, a spinal curve of this degree can greatly disturb the posture or cause the ribs to appear deformed, which can negatively affect the sensitive self-image of a child or teen. To eradicate these issues, many orthopedic physicians recommend scoliosis correction surgery.

Scoliosis typically develops during adolescence.
Scoliosis typically develops during adolescence.

Usually, a scoliosis correction surgery starts with incisions made into the back of the patient, who has been given general anesthesia. The surgeon then places a thin metal rod along either side of the spine, using hooks or screws to hold the rods in place. These rods, which in most cases are permanent, have two chief functions: they immediately straighten the spine significantly, and they cause the vertebrae to fuse over time, thus preventing future curvature. After the rods have been installed, the patient’s incisions are closed.

It must be acknowledged that scoliosis correction surgery is an invasive procedure. The surgery itself generally takes around six to eight hours, and the patient must spend approximately six days in the hospital afterward. To allow for a successful recovery, she must restrict her physical activities for up to a year after the procedure. In addition, she will almost certainly experience scarring, and may be temporarily required to wear a brace. A good orthopedic surgeon will explain all risks and recovery measures in advance of the procedure.

Despite these caveats, in the long term, scoliosis correction surgery can significantly improve the health and self-image of those once burdened by severe spinal curvature. Organ function and posture are generally greatly improved afterward, and the spinal fusion aspect of the procedure in most cases stops any further curving. Additionally, once a six-month to one-year recovery period has passed, patients can usually resume all normal physical activities.

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    • Scoliosis causes curvature of the spine.
      Scoliosis causes curvature of the spine.
    • In extreme cases, scoliosis correction surgery may be needed to restore a normal spinal shape.
      In extreme cases, scoliosis correction surgery may be needed to restore a normal spinal shape.
    • Scoliosis typically develops during adolescence.
      Scoliosis typically develops during adolescence.