Scoliosis Surgery Headlines

Last night (10 April 2019), 18-year-old Chloe Donhou from Essex underwent spinal fusion surgery to correct her 60+ degree scoliosis. This wouldn't normally be headline news - scoliosis affects approximately 3% of the population, and countless spinal fusion procedures are carried out worldwide each year - but Chloe's operation was noteworthy because it was televised.

Channel 5's Operation Live is a groundbreaking television series that's exactly what its title suggests: live TV broadcasts of surgical operations, interspersed with commentary from the medical professionals involved. At the centre of last night's instalment was Chloe, who has spent much of the last 18 years in pain as a result of her spinal curvature.

Speaking to the Express ahead of her operation, Chloe said: "This is something I've been waiting for my whole life. It's finally happened. It's the little things people don't understand...if I go bowling with friends, I'll be in agony the next day."

Chloe's spinal fusion procedure was carried out by the orthopaedic team at The Royal London Hospital, and watched by viewers all over the UK.

Read some of the reactions to Chloe's spinal fusion surgery on Twitter >

 

Is spinal fusion surgery the only answer for people with scoliosis?

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we provide exercise-based physical therapy that helps people with scoliosis to live better lives. We quite frequently hear from individuals who are looking for alternatives to spinal fusion surgery - as effective as the operation is, there's always a risk associated with any surgical procedure, and many scoliosis patients prefer not to go through with it.

Over the last 12-13 years, we have helped many people with scoliosis to improve their condition and avoid spinal fusion surgery. Our internationally-renowned ScolioGold treatment method has proven capable of:

  • Reducing pain
  • Making spinal curves smaller
  • Improving muscle balance and flexibility
  • Boosting overall quality of life

If you would like to find out more about the Scoliosis SOS Clinic and the treatment we provide, please telephone 0207 488 4428 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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Darren Lui with Scoliosis SOS team

On Thursday 7th February 2019, we were privileged to welcome Mr Darren Lui into the Scoliosis SOS Clinic along with Kate Robertson, a physiotherapist who works alongside him in South West London. Mr Lui specialises in orthopaedics and has a particular interest in vertebral body tethering.

Mr Lui gave a very interesting presentation to our ScolioGold therapists and patient care co-ordinators about sagittal balance and the importance of assessing and treating each patient individually based on their presentation. He also discussed the ways in which he feels having an effective pre- and post-surgery physiotherapy structure in place could help to decrease scoliotic patients' pain and improve many patients' quality of life.

As a team, we discussed the significance of having a 'pretty x-ray' showing a straighter spine, and how this is often the sole goal of young girls undergoing spinal fusion surgery. Although this is the outcome for some patients, in a lot of cases this is far from a realistic outcome for the patient and the more important outcomes should be measured against patient flexibility, quality of life and pain reduction.

Mr Lui explained that if he is able to stabilise a curvature and prevent further progression, the procedure is still classed as a success. This initially shocked our team of ScolioGold therapists who had been so used to hearing about the significance of Cobb angle reduction within the orthopaedic world. In fact, many of our patients contact the clinic specifically to find out by how much they can expect to reduce their Cobb angle.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we have seen patients reduce their Cobb angle by up to 20 degrees through exercise. However, this is never something we guarantee, and patients are specifically advised that the aim of our treatment is to prevent further progression and improve quality of life.

Up until very recently, most orthopaedic surgeons have failed to acknowledge that scoliosis can cause a patient a significant amount of pain. However, times are now changing, and more orthopaedic consultants are identifying that imbalances around the spine due to scoliosis can cause pain in patients. It has also been recognised that surgery would not necessarily be able to decrease pain levels in a patient with scoliosis.

Mr Lui was very keen to see the work our ScolioGold therapists do with our patients during a 4-week treatment course. The aim of ScolioGold treatment is to rebalance the muscles surrounding the spine, allowing patients to stand in a symmetrical upright position, improving their cosmetic appearance, reducing pain, and preventing further progression.

Patients on the NHS are currently offered very little opportunity to learn specific scoliosis exercises. These exercises are proven to be successful, and not only in preventing progression - they have also been shown to improve a patient's quality of life significantly.

Pre- and post-surgery physiotherapy is almost non-existent on the NHS, but allowing patients to take part in such activity could both prevent the need for surgery and improve the outcome for patients undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

We hope to work closely with Mr Lui over the next few months to make the dream of being able to offer ScolioGold treatment to more patients throughout the UK a reality.

For more information on the treatment we offer, please contact us online or call the Scoliosis SOS Clinic on 0207 488 4428.

"Traditionally, scoliosis has been considered to be a disease affecting bone, cartilage, or neuromuscular activities. We were surprised to find an immune response associated with idiopathic scoliosis."

Idiopathic scoliosis is a condition that affects people all over the world, yet the underlying cause is still unknown. Researchers have made great progress in recent years, however - we've explained previously on this blog that zebrafish can be very useful when researching scoliosis and other congenital defects that occur in humans, and scientists at The Hospital for Sick Children have been examining zebrafish to try to identify factors that contribute to the onset of idiopathic scoliosis.

While looking for abnormal genes or genetic pathways that could be responsible for idiopathic scoliosis, the researchers instead noticed that immune cells liked to inflammatory conditions had accumulated around the area where the spinal curvature occurred. Using genetic tools, they found that stimulating pro-inflammatory signals in the spines of zebrafish could induce idiopathic scoliosis.

Interestingly, the team were also able to demonstrate that blocking these signals using NAC (an over-the-counter supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties) reduced the severity of scoliosis in the zebrafish. If these findings can be applied successfully to humans, then these Toronto-based scientists may have discovered a treatment that is less invasive than some of the treatments currently available to people with scoliosis.

Scoliosis Research Results

Image source: advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/12/eaav1781

The research team are now planning to explore the genetic causes of idiopathic scoliosis in human patients and attempt to determine whether inflammatory signals like those found in the zebrafish can be identified and proven to accelerate the onset or progression of spinal curvature.

Read the Research Article >   How We Treat Scoliosis >