What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is best described as a sideways curvature of the spine. It is a common affliction, with over 3 million cases per year in the United States. While this condition typically occurs right before puberty, there are three notable ways in which the spine can curve and be diagnosed as scoliosis:
- Levoscoliosis is when the spine curves to the left, resembling the letter C
- Dextroscoliosis is when the spine curves to the right, resembling a backwards letter C
- When the spine has two distinct curves and takes on a shape resembling the letter S
There are two major forms of scoliosis. Type 1 is considered “progressive scoliosis” and typically begins as very mild during the young adult years before becoming increasingly worse as the patient becomes older. This is usually due to degenerative changes in the spine and natural wear and tear that occurs as our bodies age. Type 2 is referred to as “adult scoliosis” and begins later in life as a result of degenerative conditions in the spine. Other forms include congenital scoliosis, which develops in utero, and neuromuscular scoliosis, which sometimes occurs in those who cannot walk due to cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or some other neuromuscular condition. These other forms, however, tend to be much rarer.
Symptoms can vary depending on age and the severity of the scoliosis. While those who have minor curvature in the spine may experience little to no discomfort, patients with a more pronounced curvature are likely to experience back pain, nerve compression, numbness, weakness and difficulty standing upright or walking. During your consultation, your doctor will likely ask you to bend from the waist so they may observe your spine and carefully check for any hallmark symptoms of scoliosis, including:
- One shoulder higher than the other
- One shoulder blade protruding more than the other
- One hip higher than the other
- Uneven appearance of the waist
- One side of the ribcage higher than the other
- A significant tilt in the body to one side
- One leg may appear shorter than the other
Generally, spinal curvatures less than 20 degrees will need only careful monitoring and diligent care toward the spine. However, curvatures greater than 20 degrees will require non-surgical or minimally invasive treatment to adjust the spine and prevent further damage or eventual disfigurement.
The Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® Approach To Scoliosis Correction
If it has been determined that surgery is the best option for your scoliosis, Minimally Invasive SpineCARE features several state-of-the-art techniques reflecting the latest advances in healthcare and technology. We proudly offer both minimally invasive and traditional surgeries and will work with you to determine which option may be best for your unique case. These procedures will almost always fall into one of the two main categories of scoliosis surgery:
- Posterior Surgery – From the Back
Multiple tiny incisions are made along the thoracic (middle back) region of the spine. Oftentimes, an endoscope (a small tool with a tiny camera on the end) will be inserted to allow the surgeon to navigate the spine with minimal disruption to surrounding muscles and tissue. Depending on the exact procedure being performed, screws and rods may be inserted into the spine and then a bone graft may be necessary to fuse particular bones within the spine together. The fusion process will continue after surgery and can take up to a full year post-procedure to completely fuse.
- Anterior Surgery – From the Front
In certain situations, it may be recommended to perform surgery from the front of the body for enhanced exposure to the thoracic (middle back) and lumbar (lower back) regions of the spine. Depending on the patient and the procedure being performed, vertebral discs may be removed while screws and rods are then inserted into the spine to reduce its curvature. Bone is placed into the empty disc spaces to encourage the spine to fuse. The fusion process, much like in posterior procedures, will continue after surgery and can take up to a full year to complete.
Because of our focus on minimally invasive techniques, patients undergoing minimally invasive surgical procedures typically experience a faster healing process and speedier recovery period. This is due to the smaller incisions required and notably less trauma incurred to the muscles and tissue surrounding the spine. We have successfully treated over 45,000 patients with our innovative services and patient-centric care. Contact The Spine & Orthopedic Institute at 972-445-9443 to schedule a consultation or to find out how we can help you with your scoliosis!