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What Exactly is Scoliosis and Spinal Fusion Surgery?

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Everyone’s spine has curves. These curves produce the normal rounding of the shoulders and the sway of the lower back. Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to bend sideways and twist. Scoliosis can occur in the upper back (thoracic), lower back (lumbar), or in the neck area (cervical). You may also have curvature in more than one area. Scoliosis is more commonly seen in girls than in boys. Uneven shoulders or a shoulder blade that protrudes when a child bends over are often the first indicators of the condition. The most common form of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis, which means the cause is unknown. Your doctor may recommend surgery if the spinal curve continues to progress despite treatments, such as bracing.
 
The goal of spinal fusion surgery is to stop the progression of the curve. During the surgery, the doctor attaches screws and rods to both sides of the spine and the curve is gently straightened. Small bone grafts taken from the spine and ribs are placed next to the spine. These bone grafts act like cement. As the bone grafts heal, the spine will become solid and the curve will not progress. Until the bones have healed, they need support to keep them from curving again. The rods attached to the spine hold everything in place and support the spine until the bones fuse together.
 
Your spinal fusion surgery may be performed from the back (posterior), the side (anterior) or both. Your surgeon will determine which is best for you.

Why do it?

Some of the reasons teens say they are glad they had this surgery are:
  • Less back pain
  • Better posture
  • Clothing fits better
  • Prevention of a larger curve with larger side effects.

What else can you do?

You can do yourself a huge favor by exercising and being physically active before your surgery. Daily stretches, stomach crunches, and leg stretches are all examples of exercises that help you heal faster and recover more easily. Exercising is also a great way to relieve the stress that may be building up inside of you.
 
You can do yourself a huge favor by exercising and being physically active before your surgery. Daily stretches, stomach crunches, and leg stretches are all examples of exercises that help you heal faster and recover more easily. Exercising is also a great way to relieve the stress that may be building up inside of you.
 
In the months or weeks before your surgery, it is very important to maintain a positive attitude. Try not to dwell on what is ahead. Have as much fun as you can, safely. Stay active, keep busy, and most of all, don’t feel sorry for yourself! Try to think of things to do that you may not be able to do right after your surgery. Some suggestions include swimming, horseback riding, water park slides, roller coaster rides, rollerblading, ice skating, dancing, golfing and driving. The night before your procedure, you may want to spend some time by yourself. It will be a while before anyone lets you do something by yourself again.
 
Other ideas? Talk about the procedure. Ask questions. Write about it. Do whatever it is you need to do to process your feelings and avoid keeping them bottled up inside.
 
 
 
For more information about Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders at Miami Children's Hospital, or to make an appointment, please call (305) 662-8366.