Scoliosis surgery for adults — what to expect | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

What adults with degenerative scoliosis and other deformities can expect from surgery

Back and leg pain is typically reduced by half, and about two-thirds of adult patients feel improvement in their activity level after surgery for scoliosis or other deformities.

Scoliosis surgery for adults whose degenerating spine leads to a curve to the side or kyphosis (a curve that pitches the body forward) tends to be more effective for many patients than nonsurgical treatments.

But surgery is a big undertaking with risks, rewards and lots of questions. Spinal deformity surgery in adults is particularly complicated.

Back and leg pain is typically reduced by half, and about two-thirds of adult patients feel improvement in their activity level after surgery for scoliosis or other deformities, according to Jeffrey L. Gum, M.D., spine surgeon with Norton Leatherman Spine.

“Shared decision-making with patients who are considering surgery for degenerative scoliosis starts and ends with accurate information,” Dr. Gum said. “We now know that patients who fully understand what to expect will be more engaged with their recovery and physical therapy and can expect a better outcome.”

Dr. Gum recently co-authored a study to come up with a list of questions patients frequently ask and answers about adult spinal deformity surgery. The study, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery, helps physicians and patients decide whether surgery is the right approach for each individual. The answers were based on a study of nearly 700 patients from around the country two years after surgery to fuse five or more vertebrae.

About 70% of patients reported feeling better about their appearance and were about one-half inch taller on average.

Understanding the risks of surgery for scoliosis and other spinal deformities

Obviously, surgery is not to be taken lightly. Just more than 4% of patients reported feeling worse two years after their operation. Nearly half had a major complication, and a quarter needed a second operation within two years of the first.

Adult spinal deformity surgery is some of the most complex in all of spine surgery. Just 6.5% of patients said they would not choose the same treatment, and 70% were back at work a year after surgery.


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