Spine Surgery for Scoliosis in Frisco TX
Scoliosis is a condition most commonly diagnosed during adolescence in which the spine curves sideways. Many spine surgeons recommend surgery for children with severe cases, that is- curves 45 to 50 degrees or higher. Surgery would lessen the spine’s curvature and stop it from worsening.
A spinal fusion is an operation to treat scoliosis. The plan is to realign the curved vertebrae and fuse them so they can heal into one single, solid bone. Spine surgeons can significantly improve curves with the help of the technology and tools available today.
If you or someone you love is considering surgery for scoliosis, you’re probably overwhelmed with questions.
Common Questions Include:
Is surgery really necessary?
If the curve is 45 to 50 degrees or greater, it’s likely to worsen, even after you’ve finished growing. In these cases, surgery is recommended because lung function is affected and the cosmetic deformity of the back can worsen. If a growing child has a curve between 40 and 50 degrees, several other factors will help determine whether surgery is the right treatment. Your surgeon will discuss this with you.
How successful is the surgery?
Spinal fusions are very successful at preventing curves from worsening. Nowadays, doctors can significantly straighten the curves, which will improve the patients’ physical appearance.
After the surgery, how straight will my spine be?
Your surgeon will only straighten the bones as much as safety will allow because your spinal cord must remain protected. The main factor in estimating how straight your spine will be after surgery is how flexible your scoliosis is prior to the procedure. Before surgery, your doctor can use special X-rays known as traction or bending films to measure your flexibility. Most patients end up with curves less than 25 degrees after surgery. This level of curvature is typically barely noticeable in many cases.
Will surgery relieve my back pain?
Your pain will be worse directly after surgery, but this usually only lasts for a few weeks or a couple of months. After one year, most patients disclose that their pain has improved. Everyone will experience discomfort in their back now and then, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll never have back pain again.
Common Questions Regarding Spinal Fusions:
What happens during surgery?
During a spinal fusion, the vertebrae are fused, allowing them to heal into one solid bone. This will keep the curve from worsening and completely stop growth in the abnormal segment.
Every spinal fusion uses a bone graft to help the bones fuse. Typically, little pieces of bone are inserted between the vertebrae that are supposed to be fused. Then, the bones grow together, similar to the process of a broken bone healing.
Normally, metal rods are attached to the spine by hooks, screws, and/or wires to keep the spine in place until fusion is complete. The curvature of your spine will determine how much of your spine needs to be fused.
How long will surgery last?
Most fusions typically last from four to eight hours, but it depends on the patient’s curve and how much of your spine needs fusing.
How much pain will I have?
The amount of pain after surgery greatly varies from person to person. It’s important to remember that this is a major procedure requiring the movement of muscles and realignment of bones.
You will likely be very uncomfortable the first few days, but most patients rapidly improve by day three or four. By then, most patients can get in and out of bed and walk around well enough to be discharged. The pain will gradually improve, with most teenagers being able to return to school after four to six weeks. Pain medication shouldn’t be needed after three to six weeks.
What are my options for pain management post-surgery?
Different doctors and hospitals will have different options for pain relief. Some of these options include:
- patient-controlled anesthesia (PCA) machine
- IV catheter
- Liquid or pill pain relievers
Will rods be removed?
Rods are usually not removed, even after the bones have fused. If it is required, it would likely be because of infection or a broken rod.
Will my back be stiff?
While the fused section of your back will always be stiff, most people can still perform the activities of daily life and even play most sports because of the unfused portions of their backs. If you do engage in activities in which you need a lot of flexibility, it may take time to adapt. In about a year, most people start to feel “normal” during strenuous activities.
Common Recovery Questions
How long will I need pain medication after going home?
Most patients stop needing opiate pain killers within two weeks after the surgery. It may take a patient longer to stop needing opiate medication if they frequently use them before the surgery.
These medications can be addictive so it’s best to stop using these as soon as possible.
Will I have limitations?
You will likely be asked to refrain from heavy lifting and limit bending forward for six weeks. Your surgeon will discuss other specific limitations with you.
Will I have any permanent restrictions?
Most people are able to go back to doing their favorite sports and activities. Non-contact activities such as exercising, running, and weightlifting can usually be resumed four to six months after surgery.
The spine must be healed fully before resuming all activities. It usually takes six months to a year for the spine to solidly fuse, and allow for unrestricted activities.
Will I be able to walk?
Sometimes physical therapy is necessary after surgery, but yes you should be able to walk by the time you’re discharged.
When can I return to school, hang out with friends, and drive?
It will likely take four to six weeks for the spine to heal well enough to carry a backpack. It will also take about four to six weeks before you’re feeling “normal” again and are up for going out and driving as well.
Contact Dr. Kutz at MINT if you need spine surgery in Frisco, TX so he can discuss the best options for you.