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What are the goals and expectations of scoliosis surgery?

Dr. Dennis G. Crandall

Mesa, AZ

The main goal of surgery is to end up with a balanced and pain free spine that will no longer experience curve progression. The deformity is corrected as much as possible without compromising safety.

Dr. Patrick Bosch

Albuquerque, NM

The No. 1 goal is safety; the second is to prevent the curve from progressing, or getting worse. Another important goal is to decrease the spinal curve. The patient can expect their surgeon to make the spine as nearly normal as possible, balanced and stable.

Dr. Robert S. Pashman

Los Angeles, CA

In children and adolescents, the goal of surgery is to stop the progression of a curve and leave the patient with a balanced spine. Patients and their family are always interested in how much a curve was reduced from its preoperative status. I'm commonly asked if after surgery the spine will be straight. With the use of new instrumentation techniques, our ability to straighten the spine has been improved. The primary goal of surgery, however, is to stabilize the curve. In the adult, the goals of scoliosis surgery are to stop progression and reduce pain. Although surgery can significantly reduce pain in adults with scoliosis, their improvement may be better recognized as an increased function to perform their daily activities with less pain.

Dr. Christopher L. Hamill

Buffalo General HospitalBuffalo General Hospital

For children 50-60% of the curve measurements, but more important is overall spine balance.

Dr. Robert W. Molinari

Rochester, NY

The goals and expectations of scoliosis surgery are to stabilize and improve the patient’s appearance while preventing any further progression of the deformity.

Dr. Frank J. Schwab

New York, NY

The most important goal of surgery in the setting of scoliosis is to stop the progressive deformity of the spine. While some degree of correction and improvement of appearance is obtained with surgery, this is not the primary goal. An additional expectation of scoliosis surgery is to obtain a balanced spine for comfortable function.

Dr. Stephen Ondra

Chicago, IL

The goal of scoliosis surgery is to place the spine in as normal a balance and position as possible. In this way, the head, shoulders and pelvis will all line up when the patient is standing and relaxed. This is far more important than simply straightening the spine. Certainly, reducing the amount of curvature is important in helping the spine get to a balanced state and fuse successfully in the area of surgery. Most children and adolescents can be expected to be returned to a state of normal or near-normal balance. General appearance and function is improved.

Dr. James Mooney, III

Detroit, MI

The goals of scoliosis surgery are to straighten the spine to some degree, to provide a balanced spine, and to achieve a fusion over that area so as to stop further curvature.

Dr. W. Christopher Urban

Glen Burnie, MD

There are several goals of scoliosis surgery. The first is to stop the curve from progressing. Stopping curve progression is important because larger stiffer curves are more difficult to treat than smaller ones. Also, larger curves tend to be more painful, cause more deformity, and may lead to breathing difficulty. A second goal is to improve posture and restore balance. Modern spinal instrumentation now enables surgeons to achieve better curve correction than was possible with older techniques. Finally, it is sometimes necessary to decompress nerves that have been compressed.

Dr. Jean-Pierre C. Farcy

New York, NY
M.M.C. Spine Center

The goals are: to prevent the deformity from getting worse, to correct the deformity, to restore proper balance to the spine and to correct as much as possible the cosmetic appearance of the body. Expectations should be discussed with the surgeon for each specific case according to the type and magnitude of the scoliosis curvature.

Dr. Charles E. Johnston, II

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital Orthopedic Group

The primary goal of surgery is to stop the curve from getting worse. Secondary goals are to correct deformity, especially if it has caused imbalance of the trunk in relation to the pelvis, and to relieve pain if any.

Dr. Baron S. Lonner

New York, NY

The goals and expectations of scoliosis surgery are listed below: i: To create a stable and balanced spine in three dimensions. ii: Arrest or prevention of cardio pulmonary disease. iii: Treat back pain associated with the curvature: iv: Decompress neurological elements. v: Preserve motion within the spine. vi: Improve image, provide a good cosmetic result.

Dr. John T. Smith

University of Utah Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

The goals and expectations of surgery are to stop progression of the curve as an adult. Typically, curves will correct down to the best pre-operative bend and then some.

Dr. David W. Polly, Jr.

Minneapolis, MN

The goal of scoliosis surgery is to stop the curve from getting worse.

Dr. John P. Lubicky

Chicago, IL
Shriner's Hospital for Children

The primary goal of scoliosis surgery is to prevent the curve from getting worse. However, today in almost all kinds of scoliosis we try to correct the curve, to improve how the back looks, and to make conditions for the spinal fusion, which is the welding of all these vertebrae together, heal better. So the first goal is to prevent progression. The second goal is to achieve correction.

Dr. Thomas G. Lowe

Woodridge Orthopaedics & Spine Center, P.C.

The goals of the surgery are to correct as much of the visible deformity as is possible. In general, that means correcting both the curvature of the spine and the deformity that is most visible which is the rib prominence or the rib hump that is seen in the forward bending test.

Dr. Scott J. Luhmann

St. Louis, MO

The classic type of scoliosis surgery is a spinal fusion. In this surgery, a segment of the spine is fused to eliminate motion between the vertebral body segments. At the time of surgery, the misalignment of the spine is corrected as much as possible. The use of spinal implants permits straightening of the spine and also maintains the correction as the spine fusion heals after surgery. Newer techniques for correction of scoliosis which do not “fuse” the spine are in the development and research phase and hopefully will decrease the need for spinal fusions.

The commentary above recounts the experiences of these physicians. Medtronic invited them to share their stories candidly. Keep in mind that results vary; not every patient's response is the same. Talk with your doctor to learn more about any products that are mentioned above.

It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications and benefits of spinal surgery with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your doctor's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.

  • Published: June 20, 2002
  • Updated: April 19, 2010