Importantly, scoliosis is not a disease, but rather a descriptive term. Most cases do not get worse and children should simply undergo periodic checkups to monitor their condition.
Because a large majority of cases will never develop to the point where surgery is required, nonoperative treatment options, such as bracing or periodic observation, will generally be recommended as the primary method of controlling curve progression.
However, if the scoliotic curve is severe when first observed, or if prescribed orthopaedic bracing fails to control the further development of the curve, then surgery may be necessary. In these cases, surgery has been determined to be safe and highly effective treatment for scoliosis.
The operation for scoliosis is a spinal fusion. This is essentially a “welding” process. The basic idea is to realign and fuse together the curved vertebrae so that they heal into a single, solid bone.
With the tools and technology available today, scoliosis surgeons are able to improve curves significantly.
In a spinal fusion, the curved vertebrae are fused together so that they heal into a single, solid bone. This will stop growth completely in the abnormal segment of the spine and prevent the curve from getting worse.
All spinal fusions use some type of bone material, called a bone graft, to help promote the fusion. Generally, small pieces of bone are placed into the spaces between the vertebrae to be fused. The bone grows together – similar to when a broken bone heals.
Metal rods are typically used to hold the spine in place until fusion happens. The rods are attached to the spine by screws, hooks, and/or wires.
Exactly how much of the spine is fused depends upon your curve(s).