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Courtney—Williston, SC

"I found out I had scoliosis in sixth grade, when the school nurse checked out my class. She sent a note home, and my mom took me to get some x-rays done," says Courtney. "The first doctor told me that I had to quit cheerleading and dancing, and he wanted me to have surgery right away."

"Then I met Dr. Mark Locke, who said I didn't need to rush into surgery. So, in seventh grade, I started wearing a Cope's Brace and seeing a chiropractor. I had to wear the brace 22 hours a day, and it was very uncomfortable. I couldn't move or bend, or even sit right."

"In eighth grade, Dr. Locke told me to pick a date for surgery. My curve, by that time, was around 56 to 58 degrees in my lower back, and 28 in my upper back. I picked June 21 for my surgery."

"I woke up at 4:30 that morning. We went to the hospital and they put an IV in my hand to give me anesthesia. The next thing I remember is waking up, and they wanted to take an x-ray of my back. It was extremely painful. I was in the hospital for seven days, and I mostly just slept. The worst part was when they made me get up and walk. The best part was all the presents I got!"

"My first day home, everybody from my town was at my house," Courtney adds. "There was a lot of food, and it was a joy to be at home with my family and friends again. It was about four to five weeks before I actually got out of the house. Six weeks after the surgery, I competed in my first [beauty] pageant, and I won!"

"It's been a year since my surgery, and my back doesn't hurt too much any more, except for when it rains. I made the varsity cheerleading squad, but I can't tumble or do stunts. Hopefully, before next football season, I'll be able to."

"My advice [for other people with scoliosis] is to take it day by day, and don't rush anything. I wish I would have known how many people are diagnosed with scoliosis, and that I wasn't alone."

"When Courtney brought home the note saying she had scoliosis, I chalked it up to dancer's back, since she'd danced for ten years," says Sharon, Courtney's mother. "I took her to an orthopaedic surgeon who said she should have surgery immediately. Courtney's dad and I were devastated."

"We met Dr. Locke, and he verified the first opinion," adds Sharon. "But, we decided to try bracing first, combined with chiropractic care, to see if we could halt the curve and allow her some time to grow."

"Scoliosis is common, but a severe curve like Courtney's isn't," says Dr. Mark Locke. "We tried bracing and chiropractic, but Courtney's curve was progressing to the point where she was going to be permanently deformed."

"Bracing is a difficult situation," adds Dr. Locke. "The more severe the curve, the more hours you have to wear the brace. Bracing can be a winner for someone with a small curve. But, if your curve is over 30 degrees, and you have not even started your brace, you're in trouble. If it gets over forty degrees, then you've limited your options to surgery or nothing."

"The key to successful bracing is a positive relationship between the parent and the child. If they can communicate and agree that they are going to do something together and wear the brace, the child can win."

"Parents need to do their research and learn about scoliosis. The sooner parents come to the conclusion that physical therapy and chiropractors and massage have never been shown in a scientific method to control scoliosis, the better they can help their child. Some of my most frustrating cases have been when the patients didn't come back. With a growing child, scoliosis must be monitored. Once you get severe scoliosis, you're faced with surgery and it is a terrible operation to have."

Sharon agrees. "The aftermath of Courtney's surgery was stressful," she laments. "Courtney was in a great deal of pain and we had a hard time getting the pain controlled. But, once we got her home, she just took off and has done great ever since. The worst part was the feeling that her dad and I should have noticed it earlier. My advice to parents is to research your child's condition and don't settle with just one opinion. Let your child make a lot of the decisions, and don't hide anything from them. Talk to the doctor and include your child in those discussions."

In addition to the possible benefits of spine surgery for the treatment of scoliosis, there also are potential risks. These include tissue or nerve damage caused by the improper positioning and placement of implants or instruments; the disassembly, bending, and/or breakage of any or all of the components; nonunion (or pseudarthrosis), delayed union, or mal-union; and postoperative changes in spinal curvature, loss or correction, height, and/or reduction. Pressure on the skin in patients with inadequate tissue coverage over the implant could result in skin penetration, irritation, internal scaring, tissue death, and/or pain.

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After reading this please keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications, such as infection, blood loss, or nerve damage are some of the potential adverse risks of spinal surgery. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results, and other important medical information.

  • Published: January 25, 2005
  • Updated: June 14, 2010