Scoliosis Surgery

Earlier this year, we answered some frequently asked questions about scoliosis surgery to provide you with more information on the spinal fusion procedure that is often used to correct severe spinal curves. Since then, we’ve been asked a number of other questions about this operation, so we thought we’d assemble another list of frequently asked questions to give you a little more insight into what scoliosis surgery is really like.

Q. Does scoliosis surgery hurt?

A. You won’t experience any pain during the surgery because you’ll be under general anaesthesia, but you may experience some discomfort after the operation. While you recover, you will be given PCA (patient-controlled analgesia) – a pump that delivers morphine or other painkillers into your system when you press a button. This will control the pain for the first few days after surgery. Most patients are moved off PCA after 2-3 days and then begin a course of oral pain medication. When discharged from hospital, a prescription for pain medication is provided. In most cases, children are usually off medication within two weeks; however, adults may require medication at diminishing doses for weeks or even months after surgery.

Q. Does scoliosis surgery leave a scar?

A. Yes, you will be left with a scar but it will gradually fade over time. The length of the scar depends, at least in part, on how many curves there are in your spine. If you have just one spinal curve, your scar should be roughly 10 inches long. However, if you have two or more curves in your spine, your scar may begin in the middle of your shoulder blades, and may finish as far down as your pelvis. Surgeons will try to keep the scar as thin as possible by placing the sutures beneath the skin. Some surgeons may even use a special type of glue that promotes wound healing.

Q. Does scoliosis surgery make you taller?

A. Yes – but the length of your spine will not have changed. The increase in height is due to your spine being straightened and therefore appearing longer. The increase in height depends on the severity of your spinal curve.

Q. What kind of doctor performs scoliosis surgery?

A. Both orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons can carry out a spinal fusion procedure. Scoliosis surgery was originally carried out exclusively by neurosurgeons, but nowadays, orthopaedic surgeons are equally well-qualified to undertake the majority of spinal operations.

Q. How long does scoliosis surgery take?

A. The spinal fusion procedure tends to take 4-6 hours, but the time can vary between patients. The surgeon will take as long as necessary to ensure the patient receives the best results.

Q. Can you exercise after scoliosis surgery?

A. Yes – in fact, exercise helps with the rehabilitation process. Physical therapy is encouraged as it stretches and strengthens the muscles around the spine, and also improves neuromuscular stability. However, it is recommended that you don’t do anything too strenuous, as it could worsen your condition.

Further reading:

Scoliosis SOS is a UK-based clinic providing non-surgical treatment for scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine. Click here to learn about our treatment methods, or get in touch to arrange an initial consultation.

Magnetic Growth Rods

Spinal fusion is the most commonly-used surgical treatment for scoliosis, but there are other procedures that can be used to combat a curvature of the spine. The use of magnetic growth rods is becoming more widespread – but exactly what does this procedure entail?

What are magnetic growth rods?

The magnetic growth rods procedure is relatively new, and it has been developed to improve the traditional growing rod procedures. Usually recommended only for young patients, the procedure is performed in an outpatient clinic under the control of an externally-applied magnet control device. It has shown itself to be a relatively safe and effective procedure, and only requires a short-term follow-up. Magnetic growth rods aim to control the patient’s spinal curve during the growth and development stage, until the patient nears skeletal maturity (after 11-13 years of age). The procedure itself consists of single or dual titanium spinal rods that contain a magnetically drivable lengthening mechanism. These rods are inserted at the two most cranial levels and the two most caudal vertebral levels for distal fusion segments. Pedicle screws are used as anchors before passing the rods subcutaneous/submuscular to connect to each fusion segment. Patients are required to undergo a post-op procedure (distraction) after the initial surgery is complete.

What happens during the post-op procedure?

The post-op procedure is not very invasive, and patients are required to undergo follow-ups for 6 weeks for distraction. An external remote controller is placed over the internal magnet, and once applied, the rotating mechanism causes the rods to lengthen, thus distracting the spine. During each distraction visit, the aim is to lengthen the spine by 1.5 to 2mm. If the patient is experiencing any pain or discomfort, the device can retract. The procedure is pretty quick, and tends to last around 30 secs to a minute. This procedure is usually performed on children under the age of 7 that have been diagnosed with early onset scoliosis.

What complications can arise?

There are fewer complications associated with magnetic growth rods than with other scoliosis surgeries, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any risks involved. There is a small chance that the rod may break and cause some damage to your spinal cord. There is also a risk that the pedicle screws may come loose and pull out, and on rare occasions, the device may also fail to construct a distraction. MAGEC rods are expected to last for approximately 24 to 36 months before they have to be replaced, at which point you will have to undergo surgery again.

How can we help?

If you don’t want your child to undergo this type of scoliosis surgery, or if you’re looking for something to help with the rehab process, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help! We treat all of our patients non-surgically, treating their conditions using an exercise-based treatment method that provides unrivalled treatment success. Please feel free to contact us to find out more about our unique treatment method, or to book an initial consultation.

Spinal Tethering & Stapling

Many of the patients we treat here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic come to us in search of an alternative to scoliosis surgery, but while our ScolioGold method has consistently proven capable of reducing spinal curvature and improving quality of life (thus eliminating the need for surgical intervention), our exercise-based therapy has on occasion been used in conjunction with surgical treatment when the case called for it. The most common form of scoliosis surgery is spinal fusion, but there are a number of other techniques in use, and some of these have seen a boost in prominence and popularity of late. One approach that you might have heard of is spinal tethering, which comes in two different varieties: vertebral body stapling and vertebral body tethering.  

What is vertebral body stapling?

Vertebral body stapling (VBS) is a less invasive alternative to spinal fusion surgery. This procedure aims to control the progression of the patient’s spinal curvature through the use of special metal staples, which are attached to the vertebrae in the curved part of the spine. This creates a sort of internal scoliosis brace – the staples restrain one side of the spine while allowing the other side to grow normally, thereby countering the progression of the curvature. VBS may be used to treat a thoracic spinal curve measuring 25-35 degrees, or a lumbar curve of under 45 degrees.  

What is vertebral body tethering?

Vertebral body tethering (VBT) uses pedicle screws instead of malleable metal staples. These screws are inserted into the affected vertebrae and attached (tethered) to a flexible cable at the point where the spine curves. This procedure was developed with larger spinal curves in mind. VBT is used in cases of scoliosis where the curve measures 35-70 degrees.  

Benefits of spinal tethering

Both VBS and VBT are preferable to spinal fusion surgery in a number of ways – most importantly:
  • These procedures are less invasive than spinal fusion
  • Spinal fusion is generally only available to scoliosis sufferers who have reached maturity and finished growing; VBS and VBT, by contrast, are recommended for young patients who are still growing

Is spinal tethering effective?

On occasion, a scoliosis sufferer will come to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in order to improve their flexibility and spinal correction ability before undergoing spinal tethering surgery. Then, after their VBT/VBS procedure, that individual will return to us as a post-surgery patient on a modified programme that’s designed to aid with scar tissue management and general rehabilitation. Our treatment programme also helps to prevent future progression of the patient’s condition. We have treated a number of post-VBT/VBS patients this way, and in our experience, spinal tethering/stapling has no positive impact on spinal rotation. This means that cosmetic changes to the patient’s rib cage are minimal, so be sure to take this into consideration when weighing up your scoliosis treatment options. It’s also worth noting that VBT/VBS are not currently available in the UK due to a lack of research. At time of writing, these procedures are only being carried out in the USA, Canada, New Zealand and India, and many scoliosis patients have had to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to undergo spinal tethering abroad. Interested in non-surgical scoliosis treatment? Contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange a consultation.

A person with scoliosis may suffer many problems linked to their skeletal system, such as back pain, stiffness, discomfort, and reduced mobility. But did you know that a severe spinal curve can also affect the patient’s digestive system?

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The effect of scoliosis on the digestive system

If your scoliosis is left untreated and allowed to progress (i.e. get worse over time), you may experience some digestive issues as a knock-on effect of your spinal misalignment. Many scoliosis patients experience:

  • Stomach pains
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation

You may think that a spinal curve would only affect your musculoskeletal system and not your internal organs, but remember: your spinal cord is the highway of your central nervous system, and any problem with your spine can potentially affect any other part of your body. That includes your pancreas, kidneys, intestines and bladder.

Furthermore, the contortion and compression that occurs when your body is leaning to one side can interfere with your ability to digest food normally as well. Depending on the shape and location of your spinal curve, it may end up blocking the passage of food through the intestines.

How can Scoliosis SOS help?

If you suffer from scoliosis and it’s affecting your digestive system, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic may be able to help. We treat our patients using the ScolioGold method, a combination of non-surgical treatment techniques including stretches, exercises and massages. This treatment programme as a whole is designed to treat every aspect of your spinal condition, relieving symptoms across the board and vastly improving your overall quality of life.

Orthotics & Insoles for Scoliosis

Scoliosis insoles / orthotics are custom-made devices created to help improve the effect of scoliosis on the patient’s feet and legs. In particular, orthotics for scoliosis sufferers are designed to help correct leg length discrepancy and limit abnormal motion within the body. The change in pressure from your feet can help to limit the progression of scoliosis over time.

Will scoliosis orthotics help me?

If you suffer from scoliosis and uneven legs or flat feet, scoliosis orthotics could help improve your condition. Leg misalignment often occurs when the patient’s spinal curvature causes their pelvis to become uneven, making one leg appear longer than the other. This is known as functional leg length discrepancy (as opposed to an anatomical leg length discrepancy) because the legs aren’t really different lengths. Unfortunately, a functional leg length discrepancy puts excess pressure on the back muscles, and this can lead to scoliosis progressing faster. This is why insoles / orthotics are sometimes prescribed to scoliosis patients.

How do insoles and orthotics work?

When scoliosis orthotics are prescribed, the patient is given custom-made insoles to wear in their shoes. These help to reduce the leg length discrepancy (or, in the case of flat feet, raise the flattened foot arch). The insoles help to arrest the progression of scoliosis, as they help reduce muscle imbalances around the spinal area. Orthopaedic shoes, inserts, and heel lifts are all utilised as forms of orthotic treatment for scoliosis. These types of support help to reduce pain in the hip, leg, and back.

Can orthotics cure scoliosis?

Orthotics and shoe inserts cannot ‘cure’ one’s spinal curvature, but they can help to relieve some of the painful side effects of this condition. They can also help prevent further curve progression in younger patients who are still growing. Likewise, orthotic treatment cannot cure leg discrepancies or symptoms such as flat feet. They can help improve these conditions and relieve the patient from pain, but insoles for scoliosis will not cure the patient of their condition. If you’re looking for other methods of treating scoliosis without the need for surgery, we provide physical therapy courses here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic. Our four-week course can improve your curvature dramatically – see the results for yourself here. Contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange an initial scoliosis consultation. Image courtesy of