'You need surgery' isn't something you ever want to hear. But for some individuals diagnosed with hyperkyphosis, surgery may be the only viable option to improve their condition and reduce their back pain. Non-surgical treatment methods such as physical therapy are often explored before resorting to surgery; however, if the symptoms of kyphosis are still causing problems after a certain amount of time, doctors may recommend an operation.
Other criteria that are taken into consideration include:
- Curve progression - If the curve of the spine is getting gradually worse, doctors may suggest surgery to correct the curve and halt the progression.
- Curve severity - In the thoracic spine (upper back), curves that exceed 80 degrees are considered severe. In the thoracolumbar spine (mid-low back), curves greater than 60-70 degrees are classed as severe.
- Neurological symptoms - Hyperkyphosis can affect the nerves in the spinal cord as a result of spinal changes (e.g. vertebral fractures, which may cause pinched nerves). This can result in numbness, weakness and tingling feelings. In severe cases, the patient may experience bladder or bowel dysfunction.
- Balance - Due to the spine curving forward in kyphosis, patients may have difficulty standing up straight. If a case of kyphosis results in individuals leaning forward too far, making it difficult to complete everyday tasks, surgery may be needed to rebalance the spine.
The main aims of hyperkyphosis surgery are:
- Decrease pain and any neurological symptoms experienced
- Reduce deformity
- Stop the curve from getting any worse
A number of different surgical procedures may be used, including:
Osteotomy is a surgical procedure that involves the cutting and reshaping of bones. For individuals who have been diagnosed with hyperkyphosis, osteotomy realigns the bone ends in their spine and allows them to heal. Spinal instrumentation and fusion may then be used to stabilise the spine during the healing process.
Once the spine has been realigned through an osteotomy, surgeons are required to stabilise and help it to heal in its new position. To do this, the surgeon will create an area where the bones in the spine fuse together over a period of time (typically several months) using a bone graft. This fusion aims to prevent movement between the vertebrae, providing more long-term stability within the spine. Based on the severity and location of the kyphosis curve, the surgeon will dictate whether the spinal fusion is performed from the front (anterior approach) or the back (posterior approach).
Kyphoplasty is a minimally-invasive treatment that's performed through a number of very small incisions. Here, a special orthopaedic balloon is placed into the compressed vertebra and then inflated in an attempt to return the vertebra to the correct height and position. The balloon creates an empty space in the vertebra which is filled with a special surgical cement. This helps to stabilise the spine.
Hyperkyphosis surgery risks
As with any other surgical procedure, kyphosis surgery does carry some risks that you should be aware of before you decide to go under the knife. These include:
- Blood clots
- Instrumentation becoming loose or breaking
- Development of a secondary curve
Treating hyperkyphosis without surgery
If you don't like the idea of having surgery, you'll be pleased to learn that it is often possible to treat Scheuermann's disease and other forms of hyperkyphosis without any invasive procedures. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we offer world-class therapy in the form of our ScolioGold programme, which helps to straighten the back, reduce feelings of pain and improve overall quality of life.
We can also help individuals who have already undergone hyperkyphosis surgery. Our combination of proven treatment methods can help to speed up the recovery process, easing the pain experienced post-surgery, improving mobility and correcting any secondary curves that may have developed above or below the fusion.
If you would like to find out more about why our treatment courses are a great alternative to surgery, please contact Scoliosis SOS and book an initial consultation with one of our scoliosis consultants, who will more than happy to recommend the best course of action for you.
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