Scoliosis surgery repairs abnormal curving of the spine (scoliosis). The goal is to safely straighten your child's spine and align your child’s shoulders and hips to correct your child’s back problem.
Before surgery, your child will receive general anesthesia. This will make your child unconscious and unable to feel pain during the operation.
During surgery, your child's surgeon will use steel rods, hooks, screws, or other metal devices to straighten your child's spine and support the bones of the spine. Bone grafts are placed to hold the spine in the correct position and keep it from curving again.
The surgeon will make at least one surgical cut to get to your child's spine. This cut may be in your child's back, chest, or both places. The surgeon may also do the procedure using a special video camera.
During the surgery:
The surgeon may get bone for the grafts in these ways:
Different surgeries use different types of metal instruments. These are usually left in the body after the bone fuses together. Two of the more common procedures are:
During surgery, the nerves that come from the spine will be watched using special equipment to make sure no damage is done to any of the nerve roots.
Scoliosis surgery usually takes 4 - 6 hours. It may take longer or shorter for some children.
There are several reasons to treat scoliosis:
Braces are often tried first to keep the curve from getting worse.
The choice of when to have surgery will vary.
Surgery is usually recommended for the following children and adolescents with scoliosis of unknown cause (idiopathic scoliosis):
There may be complications with any of the procedures for scoliosis repair.
Risks of any anesthesia are:
Risks of any surgery are:
Possible complications from any scoliosis repair surgery are:
Problems that may develop in the future include:
Tell your child's doctor or nurse what medicines your child is taking. This includes medicines, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
Before the operation:
During the 2 weeks before the surgery:
On the day of the surgery:
The doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital. Be sure to arrive on time.
Your child will need to stay in the hospital for about 3 - 4 days after surgery. The repaired spine should be kept in its proper position to keep it aligned. If the surgery involved a surgical cut in the chest, your child may have a tube in the chest to drain fluid buildup. This tube is often removed after 24 - 72 hours.
A catheter (tube) may be placed in the bladder the first few days to help your child urinate.
Your child's stomach and bowels may not work for a few days after surgery. Your child may need to receive fluids and nutrition through an intravenous (IV) line.
Your child will receive pain medicine in the hospital. At first, pain medicine may be delivered through a special catheter inserted into your child's back. After that, a pump may be used to control how much pain medicine your child gets. Your child may also get shots or take pain pills.
Your child may have a body cast or a body brace.
Follow any instructions you are given on how to care for your child at home.
Your child’s spine should look much straighter after surgery. There will still be some curve. It takes at least 3 months for the spinal bones to fuse together well. It will take 1 - 2 years for them to fuse completely.
Fusion stops growth in the spine. This is not usually a concern because most growth occurs in the long bones of the body, such as the leg bones. Children who have this surgery will probably gain height from both growth in the legs and from having a straighter spine.
Spinal curvature surgery - child; Kyphoscoliosis surgery - child; Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery - child; VATS - child
Freeman III BL. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthoaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2007:chap 38.
Hedequist DJ. Surgical treatment of congenital scoliosis. Orthop Clin North Am. 2007;38(4):497-509.
Lonner, BS. Emerging minimally invasive technologies for the management of scoliosis. Orthop Clin North Am. 2007;38(3): 431-440.
Thomas MA, Wang Y. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 143.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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