Scoliosis is something that can attack a sufferer on two fronts. Firstly, it can cause great pain and discomfort in the sufferer, especially if it affects them from a young age. This can mean also that some sufferers spend a lot of time on medication and even in bed due to the unbearable pain that they can suffer.
In addition to pain and discomfort, there can also be some emotional damage suffered by the patient. Many scoliosis sufferers report that they feel self conscious about the curvature of the spine that the condition brings on, even though it can be minimal in many cases. This self conscious feeling is something that can last a long time, even after the problem has been treated and, eventually, managed.
One of the most startling aspects of scoliosis is the fact that surgery is so poorly understood by many people. When parents are involved heavily in the care of their children, it is often the case that they see surgery as a quick and simple way to treat the problem. However, surgery can be a very invasive and at times quite damaging procedure that can leave patients in a worse state than they were before. Without scaremongering, it is important to realise the facts about surgery for scoliosis.
When scoliosis is first diagnosed by doctors, they are very adept at recommending that patients hang on for a little while before offering any major remedies; however surgery does often come up when the more severe curvatures are diagnosed.
About 30,000 spinal surgery procedures are carried out each year for scoliosis alone, which should give you an idea as regards the frequency of the issue. The process is, on the surface, quite simple, with steel rods being attached to the top and the bottom of the curvature itself via the vertebrae. The vertebrae are thus fused through this measure, taking bone fragments from the hips and sometimes the spine itself. This fusing leads to healing in a straightened position, which is obviously the end result that surgeons and patients are hoping for.
However, things are not quite that simple. For a number of weeks after the surgery has taken place, many patients have to wear a brace. This is due to the fact that the surgery does take its toll on the human body, and wearing a brace can help to reduce the pain levels that are felt after the surgery has taken place.
As with any major corrective surgery, there is also the possibility of some kind of relapse taking pace. Whenever the human body has a correction made to a part of it, the body does face having to get used to this correction, Often the 'getting used to it' can take a very long time, and sometimes it can even be the case that the body falls into a position it was in before.
The end result of these complications can be quite nasty, in that a significant number of scoliosis surgery patients do go back to their doctors complaining of further back pain, and there have even been cases of the spine needing further corrections due to the invasive nature of surgery.
Add to this the problems that are present in any kind of surgery, such as infection and other complications. Some patients even have an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic that is used during surgery for example. While these cases are rare, it is easy to see why one must take extra care when considering using surgery for scoliosis problems.
The most common type of surgery that is used in the United States to combat scoliosis is the Harrington Rod surgery method. This is used in around 20,000 surgery cases that arise out of the condition. The cost is actually quite large, with regular Harrington procedures costing around $120,000 to carry out.
While this is the most common form of surgery in the United States, it is important to realise that there are recognised complications that do arise out of the procedure. For example, a major scientific journal recently stated that there are high risks that surgery does not actually correct spinal curvature. The journal also claimed that the long term complications arising from the surgery are 'often misunderstood', leading to patients actually signing up to a situation where irreversible damage is done to their spine.
Another leading journal also found that the surgery can severely impact upon the patient's ability to enjoy their day to day life. This means that everyday mobility is severely limited due to the surgery that has taken place. The European Spine Journal noted this fact quite clearly in recent times, offering the information that patients who undergo surgery often suffer a loss of full mobility in their spine. This means disability.
The problem is quite simple. Patients are not told that surgery for scoliosis problems will affect their lives in this way. While the surgery is quite invasive, patients still believe, on the whole, that they will only suffer a small loss in mobility, and that this is in the long term. This is most certainly not the case.
Patients are also often told, quite misleadingly, that surgery is wholly responsible of the correction of the curvature that they hope for. In reality, spinal surgery for scoliosis is not in any way effective in straightening the spine for the long term, and is definitely not effective in doing so on a permanent basis.
So if you are considering surgery for scoliosis, whether it is for you or for someone that you love, it is definitely worth understanding that surgery is not effective for straightening curvatures, and that it can cause further complications that can effectively damage your life by bringing you a disability.
Dr Kevin Lau is the founder of Health In Your Hands, a series of tools for Scoliosis prevention and treatment. The set includes his bestselling books Your Plan for Natural Scoliosis Prevention and Treatment and An Essential Guide for Scoliosis and a Healthy Pregnancy, a companion Scoliosis Exercises for Prevention and Correction DVD, and the innovative iPhone and Andoid application ScolioTrack.
Back to Articles