What Happens During Scoliosis Surgery?

Several Surgical Options Are Available for Scoliosis Patients

There are different surgical techniques for scoliosis treatment available, and since each person and each spinal curve is different, each surgery may require a different approach. Here is an overview of some of the most common surgeries for scoliosis:

Posterior Spine Fusion

During this surgery, the surgeon will attach two rods to your spine. Wires, hooks and/or screws are used to attach the rods to your spine. These rods correct and support your spine until the fusion becomes solid. During surgery, bone graft (small pieces of bone) will be placed on the vertebrae (the bones in your back) in the area of the curve. The pieces of bone and the vertebrae will grow or fuse together to form a solid back bone that will prevent the curve from getting worse. It takes approximately four to five months for the bones to fuse together.

Anterior Spine Surgery

Sometimes, two surgeries are needed to control the curvature of your spine. The first surgery is called an anterior spinal fusion and the second is a posterior spinal fusion. These surgeries are completed either the same day or approximately one week apart while you are still in the hospital. When you need an anterior spinal fusion, your doctor will operate on the front of your spine. Therefore, you will have a horizontal side incision. Since this incision is near your lungs, a chest tube may be inserted next to the incision to keep your lungs working properly. This chest tube is removed approximately two to three days after your surgery.

Growth Modulation Surgery

Sometimes, we see patients who are young and have a fairly small scoliosis curve that is thought to be at high risk of getting worse. In these cases, we may be able to insert small devices on the most curved area of the spine. This is intended to change the growth of the spine, or allow this area to straighten with growth. The hope is that this will prevent the need for a larger spinal fusion with rods down the road. These devices are inserted using video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), which is a minimally invasive technique.

Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS)

Some patients with scoliosis are candidates for a technique that can decrease the invasiveness of surgery. Your doctor will operate on the front of your spine through a few small incisions (on your side) with the assistance of a special viewing camera. This decreases the size of the surgical scars. Since the incisions are near your lungs, a chest tube may be inserted next to the incisions to keep your lungs working properly. This chest tube is removed approximately two to three days after your surgery.

Growing Rods

Sometimes, the curve is too big for growth modulation, casting or bracing, but the patient is too young for a spine fusion. We use growing rods in these situations to allow as much growth as possible before fusing the spine. These rods are placed along the spine and lengthened intermittently. This helps control the amount of curve progression while still allowing the spine to grow.

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