What Is Scoliosis Surgery?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine develops one or more abnormal, side-to-side curves. These curves may affect the body's overall balance and alignment, as well as possibly lead to other physical and health problems.

A certain degree of curvature is normal in the human spine. When you look at your body from the side, you can see the gentle inward and outward curves of the neck, upper back and lower back. These are necessary for keeping the body properly balanced and aligned over the pelvis.

But when viewed from the back, the vertebrae of a healthy spine should form a straight line. In someone with scoliosis, the spine looks more like an "S" or a "C" than an "I." The spinal bones involved in the curve also may rotate to some degree, which can further contribute to the appearance of an uneven waist or shoulders.

Surgery – specifically, spinal fusion – is recommended for severe curves and for curves that have not responded to non-surgical intervention. Spinal fusion involves placing graft material between the affected bones in the spine to encourage them to fuse, or join together.

Instrumentation, such as screws, rods, and connectors, is implanted along the treated area. The instrumentation is key because it creates an "internal cast" to support the vertebral structures and redirect stress properly along the spine during the healing and fusing process.

Ultimately, the goal is to halt the progression of the curve and reduce spinal deformity, to the extent possible, restoring proper spinal stability and alignment.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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