Spinal fusion for scoliosis — what are the risks?

Scoliosis is a spine condition that describes an abnormal curvature of the spine from side to side. This can be caused by degenerative conditions in older adults or by unknown causes in young children. Patients with scoliosis often find effective treatment though conservative therapies, such as back braces and physical therapy. However, sometimes more severe cases of scoliosis require surgery to treat the condition.

If you are considering spinal fusion for scoliosis, you should consider the risks and benefits of each treatment option before deciding which surgical procedure is right for you. There are two main types of spinal fusion available to patients with scoliosis: traditional open back fusion or minimally invasive stabilization. As you research these options, we encourage you to reach out to our Care Team with questions or concerns. We are here to help you find information so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.

Traditional open back fusion to treat scoliosis

Some adult patients choose traditional open back fusion to treat scoliosis because they are not aware that other treatment options are available to them. Traditional open back fusion is a highly invasive procedure that comes with a lot of risks and an extended recovery period. Due to the highly invasive nature of this surgery, patients are required to stay in the hospital for two or three days after the surgery for monitored recovery.

The surgery begins with a large incision in the back, about 4 – 6 inches in length. This incision cuts through the surrounding muscles and soft tissue, increasing a patient’s risk of infection and excessive bleeding, and extending the recovery time so the muscles can fully heal and rebuild. Once the spine is accessed, the surgeon will realign the spine by taking out the diseased joint or disc that is causing the scoliosis. Each type of scoliosis is different, so the component of the spine that is removed may vary. Once the diseased piece of the spine is removed, the surgeon will use metal screws and bone graft to fuse together the two surrounding vertebrae to stabilize the spine.

The recovery time for this procedure is three to six months, with some patients waiting a full year before they can return to normal activities. Some patients don’t recover and, instead, develop failed back surgery syndrome.

Minimally invasive treatment for scoliosis

Open spinal fusion is not the only surgical option available to patients who have scoliosis. Laser Spine Institute offers a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back fusion. Our minimally invasive stabilization surgery has less risk and a shorter recovery time^ than traditional open back fusion. Our minimally invasive procedures have a patient satisfaction score of 96 and patient recommendation score of 97 out of 100.^

Our minimally invasive stabilization surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure at one of our seven world-class surgery centers. The procedure begins with a small incision in the back of only about an inch in length. Through this small incision, the surgeon will access the spine without disrupting the surrounding muscles. Once the spine is accessed, the surgeon will remove the diseased portion of the spine that is causing the scoliosis and will realign the spine by inserting an implant into the empty space.

The recovery time for this procedure is 12 weeks, with many patients returning to work within two weeks after surgery.

To learn more about our minimally invasive stabilization surgery to treat scoliosis, please contact our Care Team. Our goal is to help you find the best treatment option to get you back to the active lifestyle you miss.