The term “Scoliosis” describes any abnormal, sideways curvature of the spine. Typically, viewed from the back, the spine is straight, but in cases of scoliosis, the spine can curve in one of three ways:
- A single curve to the left, shaped like a C, also known as levoscoliosis
- A single curve to the right, shaped like a backwards letter C, called dextroscoliosis
- Two curves, where the spine is shaped like a letter S
The most common form of scoliosis, called idiopathic scoliosis, means that there is no known or identifiable cause. Idiopathic scoliosis is by far the most common form of scoliosis in children, while degenerative scoliosis can occur in adults. While idiopathic scoliosis rarely causes pain, and in many cases does not require treatment, it should be carefully monitored by a physician once discovered, as the curve may progress over time.
Because the skeletons of children grow quickly, there is a chance that the degree of the spinal curve may worsen through growth. In those cases, scoliosis treatment may become advisable. Scoliosis occurs most often in children ages 10-18, and is often detected by school screenings and primary care visits.
Mild curvatures that remain at 20 degrees or less are monitored for change, but further treatment is rarely needed. Curvatures greater than 20 degrees may require non-surgical or surgical intervention. Treatments include back braces or scoliosis surgery.
Surgery for scoliosis is recommended when curves are greater than 40 to 45 degrees and continuing to progress, or with curves that are greater than 50 degrees. There are several approaches to scoliosis surgery that can be discussed with your doctor.
Following surgery, patients can usually start to move about within a few days, and the total hospital stay is usually 4 to 7 days. Patients can return to their normal activities approximately 2-4 weeks after surgery, but activity should be limited during this time as the spine continues to heal.
Generally, patients are monitored by periodic examinations and X-rays for 1-2 years after the surgery. Once the spine is healed properly, no further intervention should be needed.