When conservative options do not improve the symptoms, spinal instability from scoliosis is commonly treated with a spinal fusion surgery focused on the particular area of the spine with the problem. Spinal fusion is major surgery with a long recovery period. It is a last resort for patients with severe curvature.
The goal of scoliosis surgery is to straighten the spine as much as possible, alleviate pain, and improve posture and function. Most patients experience a significant improvement in their symptoms after surgery, although it may take several months to see the full benefits.
It is important to note that scoliosis surgery is a major procedure and carries some risks and potential complications, including infection, blood clots, and nerve damage. Before deciding on surgery, Dr. Girardi will discuss the risks and benefits with you so you can make an informed decision about your care or the care of your child.
Overall, scoliosis surgery can be an effective way to correct severe curvatures of the spine and improve the quality of life for patients with scoliosis. The most common type of scoliosis surgery is spinal fusion.
What is spinal fusion?
In most cases, the surgery performed to treat this condition is spinal fusion, during which two or more vertebrae are connected or “fused” with bone grafts. The fusion is performed under general anesthesia. It may be performed as an open surgery or a minimally invasive fusion. Fusion is typically achieved by using a combination of bone grafts (usually taken from the patient’s own body or a donor), metal screws, and rods. The bone grafts help to promote the growth of new bone between the vertebrae, eventually leading to a solid fusion which stabilizes the spine and diminishes pain. Although such surgery is normally done after the patient has finished growing, when the scoliosis is progressing at a dangerous rate, an adjustable rod may be inserted which can be lengthened every 6 months to accommodate the child’s growth.
Most patients with scoliosis, even if it becomes severe, are able to be successfully treated and to lead normal, productive lives.
What is spinal reconstruction surgery?
Spinal reconstruction surgery is complex surgery designed to treat severe spinal deformity and misalignment that affects a major part of the spine from scoliosis. Spinal reconstruction surgery can also treat severe kyphosis, an excessive curvature of the thoracic spine that causes a rounded upper back.
The goal is to fix the curvature, improve spinal alignment and balance, and improve cosmetic appearance. It usually involves spinal fusion and may also include decompression surgery (a laminectomy) for spinal stenosis or disc degeneration.
Spinal reconstruction surgery is only performed by surgeons like Dr. Federico Girardi who possess extensive knowledge and experience in treating spinal deformity disorders. Dr. Girardi will determine sources of your pain and will tailor surgery to meet your needs.
Open surgery has been the mainstay procedure, but minimally invasive spine surgery is an option. All treatment decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. The goal is pain relief, restoration of stability, and reduced disability.
Recovery from spinal surgery
After surgery, patients typically remain in the hospital for 2- 7 days depending on the patient’ s condition and the type of fusion procedure. During the hospital stay, the patient is monitored for complications and receives adequate pain control, and physical therapy. Full going home instructions are provided after surgery including pain management, incision care and what to expect during recovery. Spinal fusion can eliminate painful movement. It has a solid record of safety and efficacy in the treatment of scoliosis.
Patients are usually required to wear a back brace for several weeks to help support the spine during healing. The length of time wearing a brace may be several weeks to several months depending on the patient’s progress. The brace will limit the patient’s range of motion temporarily and promote healing to improve the chances of successful fusion. During recovery, physical rehabilitation is necessary to re-establish strength and mobility. Complete recovery generally takes from 3 to 6 months.
Patients will come in for a follow-up visit approximately 10 to 14 days after surgery, at which point Dr. Girardi will check on the progress of recovery, answer questions, and discuss the next steps. Patients may be able to return to school, work, and light activity within four to six weeks of surgery.
Dr. Federico Girardi specializes in the surgical treatment of spine disorders and has extensive experience in minimally invasive spine surgery. Dr. Girardi is internationally renowned, trains spine surgeons world-wide in advanced surgical skills including minimally invasive spine surgery and has extensive clinical research experience.
Contact his office to schedule a consultation at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Manhattan. HSS is the number one US hospital in Orthopedics.
At a Glance
Dr. Federico Girardi MD
- Triple fellowship-trained spinal surgeon
- Performs over 400 spinal surgeries per year
- Professor of orthopedic surgery at Cornell University
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