"Surgery n. an operation for remedying an injury, ailment, defect, or dysfunction."
Many doctors suggest surgery when the curvature is over 40 degrees and the patient is healthy. About 10% of patients with scoliosis will need an operation. A patient is generally prescribed a Harrington Rod, which is a stainless-steel rod with a ratchet and a hook at each end used to pull out the curve and is fixed by spinal fusion or bone-grafting. The surgery will normally entail posterior spinal fusion; this is performed through the patient's back while they lie on their front. In severe cases two operations may be needed to maximise correction and are usually performed a week apart. This operation is extremely painful and does produce a rather noticeable scar that rarely fades.
Scoliosis surgery is highly complex, involving many hours of work and should only be done by surgeons specialising in the subject who have appropriate training and infrastructure in their surgical units. However, there is a very long waiting list for scoliosis surgery in the UK, and therefore it is often many months before a patient can be operated on.
If surgery is successful it can prevent the curvature from progressing and for reasons of cosmetic nature it could be beneficial. However under no circumstances is an operation a cure.
Although many surgeons have successfully operated on their patients' spines in the last few decades and will highly recommend it, 30 years on from the start of the operation, many patients are experiencing problems with their backs. The most common and severe of these is when the vertebrae wear in S-bend patients, in the centre of their back at the point where the spine has not been fused, as it is the only mobile bit and this can cause premature weakening of the spine and osteoporosis.
There are many issues and after-effects that can stem from such intervention, as an operation, as well as the risk of something going wrong during the operation itself. See Surgery Problems.
The benefits of an operation are mainly confined to the quick-fix results that can be achieved with minimal effort on the side of the patient. Nevertheless, the recovery can be slow and it is by not a cure!!
On the other hand, in some cases, particularly when a patient feels that rehabilitation or other alternative methods of treatment would not work for them, as they do not want the long-term commitment that is required for their success, an operation is the only option.
So my advice is, as always, do your research around the subject and decide for yourself. After all it is your body and you are the one who is going to live with the results for the rest of your life, so make yourself well informed about both sides of the story!!!
The Facts Surgeons Never Tell You About!!!
(This article is not recommended reading for those just about to undergo the operation)
"I have included this section because I feel it is important that people have the opportunity to become aware and informed about the operation and to understand that when one makes a decision it is vital to research the problems as well as the benefits of a chosen treatment, before undergoing it. Unfortunately surgeons always make known the benefits, but will not divulge the risks unless closely questioned. Therefore I have compiled this article on research I have undertaken myself from various reliable medical sources."
Dangers & Inconvenience
Back operations, especially scoliosis ones, are not to be taken lightly. In fact they are extremely dangerous, carry tremendous risks of paralysis, with inconveniently long recovery periods (quite often interfering with GCSEs and A levels) and will incur you problems for the rest of your life. After the operation it is necessary to lie down, still for a week, while the patient's severe pain is partially lessened by morphine (which on its own carries side effects). There are also risks of becoming ill in hospital, during the recovery period. Most patients have to wear a protective brace for 6 months post-operative and some need to use a wheelchair for a few months - until they learn to walk again. The average operation takes a year to fully recover from, during which time patients quite often feel tired and depressed.
Sometimes another operation (with the same or higher risks) has to be performed in order to remove the metal rods or deal with any internal problems relating to them.
Once a patient has had an operation they can suffer with pain and discomfort after a relatively short time - as little as 3 years. This is most likely to occur in the mobile vertebrae that are left un-pinned by the rods.
Why operations are so popular and why they should not be
So why do the majority of scoliosis suffers still continue to opt for them even when the risk of them going wrong is 1 in every 200 performed, not to mention the problems encountered post-operatively? The answers fall into two categories - those people who do not know/realize that there are alternative treatments on offer and those people who will not investigate other treatment methods because they simply want to be cured by a simple 'pill'.
May I first stress that AN OPERATION IS NOT A CURE, there is no cure for scoliosis, only various methods to help and in some cases (like mine) reduce it. Very few complaints can be cured with the simple 'pill' and scoliosis is not one of them.
The attitude one should have towards their scoliosis
There is no simple way of getting rid of scoliosis, it is something that one has to come to terms with and understand that one must learn to adapt and live with it for the rest of one's life. As soon as you start to deny the existence of your scoliosis you are doing yourself harm. Many people I have known and met, who have had an operation, initially feel proud about their scar and then afterwards go into denial about it, and this is the worst thing they could do, because it decreases their self-awareness of their back and at the same time the ability to pick-up problems stemming from the operation that develop at a later date.