Scoliosis treatment — medical advancements from the Harrison procedure

Scoliosis is a spine condition that causes the spine to develop an abnormal curvature, usually shifting the spine in an S-shape to the left or right. This condition can be developed by a degenerative spine condition, though most times it is developed genetically or without known cause. Generally, children and adolescents develop scoliosis from genetic or unknown sources, while adults develop this condition from a degenerative spine condition that weakens the components of the spine and allows the spine to shift out of place.

As medical researchers consistently shed light on the cause and development of scoliosis throughout children and adults, medical treatment options have become more advanced, precise and effective. For example, up until ten years ago, the most common treatment option for scoliosis was called the Harrison procedure. This treatment was first created in the 1960s and involves fusing a rod to the top and bottom of the curve. The rod is first fused to the vertebrae, and then extended upward and downward to straighten out the curve of the spine. In order for the procedure to be effective, a patient must lie in a full body cast for up to six months to allow the rod to completely fuse and lengthen the spine. As you can imagine, this is an extremely debilitating procedure for young patients or patients who don’t have six months of life to give up while the procedure takes place.

Additionally, this procedure was performed on children with scoliosis. Generally, surgical fusion is not performed on children because their spines are not finished growing and developing. Children who underwent a Harrison fusion for scoliosis reported back problems, pain and curvature later in life.

Fortunately, years of medical research has allowed patients with scoliosis to undergo spinal fusion and minimally invasive stabilization surgery with fewer risks than the previously used Harrison procedure. At Laser Spine Institute, we treat adult scoliosis through minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Depending on the cause of the scoliosis, our surgeons may remove a damaged disc or vertebra that is causing the spine to shift to the side, or they may straighten the spine with implants or spacers and then insert a small fusion rod to hold the spine in place. Patients may be required to wear a back brace for several weeks following the surgery to help the vertebrae heal properly and in the correct alignment.

For more information about the treatment options available for adult scoliosis, please contact our Care Team at Laser Spine Institute. We are here to help you understand all of the treatment options available to you so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.