Scoliosis surgery risks

In many mild cases of scoliosis (i.e. where the patient’s spinal curve is unlikely to progress to an extent that will cause major changes in their appearance or respiratory health), spinal fusion surgery will not be recommended. For those with a severe curve (45-50 degrees or more), surgery is usually recommended – particularly if the patient is a child, as their scoliosis will likely increase as they grow. Scoliosis surgery is also recommended to those whose curves have progressed rapidly over a period of monitoring their condition, as it can prevent further progression and health complications. While spinal fusion surgery is an effective treatment for some patients – and may be the only viable option for those with severe scoliosis – it is important to consider your full range of options before undergoing this procedure. You should also take time to consider any possible risks or complications of undergoing scoliosis surgery, as is advised before any major operation.  

Risks to consider before undergoing spinal fusion surgery

  • Back Pain – In some cases, patients will continue to experience back pain even after undergoing spinal fusion surgery, due to what is sometimes referred to as ‘failed back surgery syndrome’. While the surgery itself may have been a success, this does not necessarily mean that the patient will experience a full resolution of their pre-op symptoms.
  • Failure of Fusion – This occurs when the bone grafts used to complete the operation fail to fuse into solid bone, which can be caused by excessive movement, poor placement of screws and rods, or even the use of anti-inflammatory medication. This can sometimes lead to failure of implants, which can cause breaks, pullouts and chronic pain. If there is no pain and the curve seems to be stable, a broken rod may not be removed.
  • Neurological Complications – Some complaints which may occur soon after surgery include a loss of skin sensation, loss of strength in feet and legs, loss of bowel and bladder control, and in very severe cases, paralysis. These changes can be temporary or permanent and only occur in a very small number of cases, particularly in their most serious form.
The paper Neurological complications in adult spinal deformity surgery states: “Surgery of the lumbar spine for ASD has a neurologic complication rate between 0.5 and 17% and is dependent upon approach (anterior, lateral, or posterior), number of fusion levels [and] case complexity.” This means that the more severe or complex your scoliosis curvature is, the higher the chance that you will experience some neurological complications following spinal fusion surgery.

Other possible surgery risks include:

  • Infection
  • Self-image (due to scarring)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Limited range of motion/flexibility
 

Is it possible to avoid these risks and complications?

If you are particularly concerned about the potential risks and limitations posed by surgery, it may be possible to eliminate the need for this procedure by reducing your spinal curvature through non-surgical techniques. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have treated a huge number of spinal surgery candidates who came to us in an effort to avoid spinal fusion. Using our ScolioGold treatment programme (which combines a selection of established non-surgical techniques), we have managed to not only reduce the Cobb angle of our patients, but also provide them with a lasting method to manage the symptoms of their scoliosis.  

Post-spinal fusion surgery

We also treat many patients who have already undergone spinal fusion surgery and are seeking help to recover from the procedure more quickly. For many of our post-op patients, the primary complaint is the level of pain experienced after surgery, which can be successfully reduced using our therapeutic techniques. Another key issue for post-surgery patients is mobility, which can also be improved with the guidance and supervision of our experienced physiotherapists.

Contact Scoliosis SOS to Book a Consultation >>

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat scoliosis and other spinal conditions not through surgery or bracing but with a purely exercise-based programme called the ScolioGold method. We have found that stretches and exercises can be extremely effective in the treatment of a curved spine, and our research backs this finding up: ScolioGold consistently helps patients to achieve a better quality of life. Our treatment courses reduce pain, improve flexibility, and can dramatically reverse the progress of a scoliotic curve (see results here).
The stretches below will not halt the progression of your scoliosis, but they can help to improve your strength and balance while relieving some symptoms of the condition. Please note that these stretches should not be construed as a substitute for a full treatment course delivered by a chartered physiotherapist.
Chest Stretch

Chest Stretch

  1. Stand upright with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend your arms out behind your back.
  3. Push your arms back and press your shoulder blades together.
  4. Hold this position for a few seconds, then relax and repeat several times.
Back Stretch

Back Stretch 1

  1. Stand upright with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend your arms out in front of your chest.
  3. Lace your fingers together and push until you feel a stretch in your upper back.
  4. Hold this position for a few seconds, then relax and repeat several times.

Back Stretch 2

  1. Stand facing a wall with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lean forward until your upper body is almost at a right-angle to your legs.
  3. Extend your arms out in front of you and press your palms against the wall.
  4. Try to straighten your back so that it is parallel to the floor.
  5. Hold this position for a few seconds, then relax and repeat several times.
If you would like to attend a full 4-week scoliosis treatment course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please click here to contact us and arrange an initial consultation.
More scoliosis exercises to try:
Disclaimer: The above information should not be treated as medical advice and the scoliosis exercises described may not be suitable or beneficial for everyone. You should not begin any exercise routine without consulting a qualified health practitioner, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, elderly, or if you have any chronic or recurring conditions. Any application of scoliosis exercises suggested is at the reader’s sole discretion and risk. Scoliosis SOS accepts no responsibility or liability for any loss or injuries caused directly or indirectly through the performing of any exercises described. If you feel any discomfort or pain during exercise, stop immediately. Always consult your own GP if you are in any way concerned about your health or anything associated with it.
One question that’s often asked about scoliosis is whether or not it counts as a disability. Many scoliosis sufferers are themselves uncertain about this, so today we’d like to try and provide some concrete information on the subject.
 
A ‘disability’ can be defined in a number of different ways, making this question a difficult one to answer simply. We’ve approached it from a few different angles below; please note that all information given here is based on UK legislation, so the facts of the issue may differ if you live elsewhere in the world.

Are children with scoliosis eligible for DLA?

If you have a child under the age of 16 who suffers from a disability, you may be able to claim some money from the government to help you look after them. This is known as the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and claimants can receive anywhere from £21.80 to £139.75 per week depending on the severity of the child’s disability.
 
So does scoliosis qualify as a disability in this instance? According to www.gov.uk, your child must meet at least one of the following criteria in order to claim DLA payments:
  • They need more looking after than a non-disabled child of the same age
  • They have difficulty getting about
Scoliosis affects a lot of people under the age of 16, but relatively few of these cases are so severe as to necessitate special care or impair the child’s ability to get around. You will not be able to claim DLA for your child’s scoliosis unless at least one of the above points applies to them.

Can adults with scoliosis claim disability payments?

Under the current rules, there are two forms of financial assistance available to disabled adults in the UK: Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is for people aged 16 to 64, while people aged 65 and over can claim Attendance Allowance. PIP, like DLA, pays out anywhere from £21.80 to £139.75 a week; Attendance Allowance claimants receive either £55.10 or £82.30 a week.
 
Eligibility for these two schemes is dependent on a variety of factors, but for now we’re just going to focus on the question of whether a curved spine is enough of a disability to qualify for PIP / Attendance Allowance. According to the UK government’s website, the requirements are as follows…

PIP (for adults aged 16-64):

To claim PIP, you must have a long-term health condition or disability that affects your ‘daily living’ and/or makes it hard for you to get around. You can only claim if you have been experiencing these difficulties for at least 3 months and expect them to continue for at least another 9 months (though that last part doesn’t apply to terminally ill claimants).
 
There are two types of PIP: the daily living component and the mobility component. Some people receive both, while others receive just one. You may be able to claim the daily living component if your scoliosis makes it difficult for you to carry out routine tasks such as bathing, getting dressed, and preparing meals; the mobility component could be available to you if your curved spine prevents you from getting around easily.

Attendance Allowance (for adults aged 65 and over):

The Attendance Allowance scheme is designed to help older people pay for any care they require as a result of health conditions and/or disabilities. Payments are made according to a two-tier system: the lower rate (£55.10 per week) is given to people who need help/supervision during the day OR during the night, while the higher rate (£82.30 per week) is reserved for terminally ill people and individuals who require help/supervision around the clock.
 
In order to qualify for Attendance Allowance, you must meet both of the following criteria:
  • You have a physical disability and/or a mental disability
  • Your disability is severe enough that you require supervision and/or help caring for yourself
You may be able to claim an Attendance Allowance if your scoliosis means that you require the care or supervision of another person.

Can scoliosis sufferers park in disabled bays?

Financial aid aside, another benefit afforded to disabled people in the UK is the Blue Badge, which allows the holder to park in spaces that are reserved for disabled people.
 
 
There are a number of things that can qualify you for a Blue Badge – in particular, people who claim the mobility component of the Personal Independence Payment (see above) are almost always eligible. There is a Blue Badge eligibility tool on the government’s website that will help you to determine whether or not you qualify for a Blue Badge in minutes.
 
So let’s come back to the big question: is scoliosis a disability? No matter how you define disability, the answer – at least here in the UK – is almost always no, unless it limits your ability to get around and perform daily tasks.
 
In other words, it tends to depend almost entirely on the severity of your spinal curve. Scoliosis doesn’t automatically count as a disability; each case has to be assessed individually.
 
If you are suffering from scoliosis – no matter how mild or how severe – we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help you to overcome your symptoms and achieve a better quality of life.
 
Even in its mildest form, scoliosis can have an immense impact on a person’s life; at its most severe, it can practically prevent people from living their lives at all.
 
Severe Scoliosis
 
The definition of what exactly constitutes severe scoliosis tends to vary depending on who you’re asking. Some specialists define as ‘severe’ any case where the Cobb angle is greater than 55 degrees (in fully-grown patients; the threshold for adolescents and children is lower). This is roughly the line beyond which surgery tends to be recommended as a suitable course of treatment.
 
However, while the Cobb angle is a useful tool for measuring the progress of scoliosis, that number is not necessarily the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining the true severity of a scoliosis sufferer’s condition. Many people have walked through the doors of the Scoliosis SOS Clinic with curves a long way short of that 55-degree threshold that nevertheless makes life miserable for the patients themselves. Symptoms such as chronic pain, limited mobility, and reduced self-esteem are not exclusive to those with a Cobb angle of 55+ degrees, and patients who are over that line don’t necessarily suffer any more than those who aren’t. Every patient is unique, and the treatment provided ought to reflect that fact.
 

Help for those with severe scoliosis

The effects of severe scoliosis are multifaceted and can be dealt with in a number of different ways. Doctors may prescribe medication to help with chronic pain, whereas the psychological impact of scoliosis (e.g. negative body image, low self-esteem) can sometimes be helped by counselling.
 
As mentioned, surgery is often recommended as a means of correcting more pronounced spinal curvatures, but this is not always necessary, even in severe cases. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we routinely treat patients with Cobb angle measurements of 60 degrees or more – in fact, our ScolioGold treatment courses have helped people exhibiting curves of up to 120 degrees!
 
Here’s what our treatment programmes can achieve for people with severe scoliosis:
Our exercise-based courses can also significantly improve the flexibility and mobility of scoliosis sufferers, helping them to enjoy a better quality of life all around.

Severe scoliosis – before and after:

Severe scoliosis before and after
A patient with severe scoliosis, before (left) and after (right) ScolioGold treatment.
 
Take a look at our video here where we helped treat a patient suffering from severe scoliosis and a 55-degree Cobb angle:
 
 
 
You can find more information about our treatment courses to help with your severe scoliosis or contact us to arrange an initial consultation (this can be conducted via Skype or over the phone if you are unable to visit our clinic in person) below!
 
Our Treatment Courses >                                Get in Touch > 
 
Is Scoliosis Hereditary
 
A common question amongst scoliosis sufferers, as well as those who suspect that they may be displaying signs of developing the condition, is “Is scoliosis hereditary?“.
 
As many of you will already be aware, most cases of scoliosis are defined as idiopathic, which means that the cause of the spinal curvature is unknown in the majority of patients. Despite this, research into the development of scoliosis has shown that there is a possible genetic link between family members, in cases where there is a family history of scoliosis.
 
Although it may not manifest itself as straightforwardly as other hereditary conditions, it is estimated that around 1 in 4 sufferers will have at least one other family member who also shows signs of scoliosis, and that first-degree relatives of scoliosis patients will have an 11 percent chance of developing the condition themselves. 
 
Although the examination of inheritance patterns has helped to determine that scoliosis is a genetic as well as hereditary condition, it remains unclear which genes are responsible for the curvature itself. It is fairly certain, however, the condition is more likely to affect female family members, due to the prominence of the condition in females over males. For this reason, many believe scoliosis is hereditary but there is still plenty of research that needs to be completed to prove this.
 
At Scoliosis SOS we have treated instances of hereditary scoliosis in the past, in cases such as that of Tina Barlow, who travelled from Florida to receive treatment with us. Just days before her decision to enrol on one of our treatment courses, Tina’s daughter was also diagnosed with scoliosis, which came as an unwelcome revelation to Tina, who had struggled to manage her condition from the age of twelve. Knowing that this would give her daughter a chance at preventing her condition from deteriorating, Tina decided that they would both travel to Scoliosis SOS in order to receive treatment, and we are happy to report that they are both now living pain-free. To read Tina and her daughter’s full story, click here.
 
Tina’s case is a great example of how non-surgical treatment can benefit family cases of scoliosis, as well as sufferers who are concerned about the future health of their children. Thanks to the integration of exercises which can be performed by the patients themselves, our ScolioGold treatment programme provides a lasting method of treatment that can be maintained by scoliosis sufferers, providing patients with the ability and knowledge to treat their symptoms.
 
We hope that has helped to answer the question of whether scoliosis is hereditary! If you have any questions about how we can help to treat family cases of scoliosis, or if you are a sufferer who is concerned that their child may require treatment for the condition, please feel free to get in touch via our contact page, to arrange a consultation.