Scoliosis through life
 
While scoliosis is typically diagnosed during adolescence, the condition can also lead to complications later in life, particularly when left untreated. Most cases of spinal curvature are treated before any major complications occur; if left untreated, however, there is a chance that scoliosis may lead to more serious problems for the patient in question. Some people who undergo spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis also experience complications later in life.
 

What complications can occur later in life if scoliosis is left untreated?

If scoliosis is left untreated for long periods of time, it can lead to chronic pain and a variety of other complications. Most of the symptoms listed below will only occur after the patient's scoliosis has reached an advanced degree of curvature, and can usually be avoided as long as the condition is treated in a timely manner:
  • Breathing problems
If scoliosis is left untreated for many years, the increasing curvature of the spine can cause the ribs to restrict lung capacity. This can lead to shortness of breath.
  • Leg pain
Advanced cases of scoliosis can cause one leg to appear shorter than the other due to misalignment of the hips. This can change the patient's posture and gait (how they walk), which in turn causes the muscles to tire sooner due to over-compensation to maintain balance.
  • Cardiovascular problems
If the curvature of the spine reaches a particularly severe point, the restriction of the rib cage can lead to heart problems. In the most severe cases, this may even lead to heart failure; however, this only occurs in a tiny minority of cases.
  • Lumbar stenosis
While scoliosis is unlikely to cause any severe neurological problems no matter how old you are, it is associated with lumbar stenosis. Lumbar stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which can ultimately lead to nerve complications, weakness or leg pain.
 

Post-surgery complications

When surgery is conducted on (or near) the spine, there is always a possibility of short-term or long-term complications. In the case of scoliosis, spinal fusion surgery can sometimes lead to the following complications in later life:
  • Flat-back deformity
After surgery to rectify scoliosis, the natural 'C'-shaped sagittal curve of the lower back may be lost. This is due to the vertebrae in the lumbar spine fusing together, thus eliminating the natural curvature. This deformity typically appears later in life, sometime between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Transitional syndrome
When the spine is working correctly, each segment shares the weight and stress of everyday movement and activities. However, when one or more segments are not working correctly, the others have to take on more stress to account for this. This means that, if your vertebrae are fused together, the closest vertebrae to the fusion site will begin to take on more stress and may ultimately become damaged over time.
 
 
Scoliosis can cause many complications later in life, but if you seek treatment before your spine deteriorates too far, many of these issues can be nipped in the bud and avoided altogether. Surgery is not your only option when it comes to improving the curvature of your spine - here at Scoliosis SOS, we provide non-surgical treatment courses that have shown to be very effective indeed.
 
To discuss scoliosis treatment options, please book a consultation - this can be conducted over the phone, via Skype, or in person at our clinic in London.