The human spine is a marvel of design, providing structure and support to our bodies while still allowing for a significant range of movement. However, for some individuals, this intricate structure can develop problems. Scoliosis is a spinal deformity characterized by abnormal curvature of the spine. It can affect people of all ages, but is most commonly diagnosed in adolescents.
Scoliosis is often described as a sideways curvature of the spine, forming an “S” or “C” shape. This condition can cause various health issues, including back pain, leg and foot pain, reduced lung capacity, and even self-esteem challenges due to affecting a person’s posture and physical appearance. The exact cause of scoliosis is largely unknown, although genetic factors may influence it. While it can affect anyone, it is more commonly diagnosed in females than males and usually appears at a young age. Further, the curvature can worsen as a child grows.
Diagnosis and Identification
Diagnosing scoliosis typically involves a physical examination. Many cases can be detected by assessing a patient’s posture, spinal alignment, and appearance. Still, X-rays are essential in confirming the presence and severity of scoliosis. These images provide a clear view of the spinal curvature and aid in measuring the angle of deviation. Some people can cope with minor curvature, but if the deviation increases, it is crucial to obtain treatment to avoid the chronic pain and discomfort that scoliosis can cause.
Historically, scoliosis has been treated with traditional open surgery, involving a long incision and significant muscle and tissue manipulation. Traditional surgery involves inserting one or more rods into the spinal column to correct the curvature and fusing particular vertebrae to maintain alignment. However, recent advancements in medical technology have introduced a minimally invasive approach that is changing how scoliosis is treated.
The Advantages of Minimally Invasive Scoliosis Surgery
Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for scoliosis is a revolutionary procedure that offers several advantages over traditional open surgery. It entails performing the surgery through a few small incisions rather than one long incision, reducing the trauma to surrounding muscles and tissues. The key elements of this technique include the use of an endoscope and fluoroscope, which provide real-time internal images of the patient’s body and allow for precise surgical guidance.
Some of the primary benefits of MIS for scoliosis treatment are:
- Reduced Scarring: Instead of a single large scar, patients are left with just a few small scars, promoting a better aesthetic outcome.
- Less Blood Loss: The minimally invasive approach results in less blood loss during surgery, reducing the risk of complications.
- Less Postoperative Pain: Patients often experience less pain and discomfort after minimally invasive surgery, leading to quicker recovery.
- Shorter Hospital Stay: MIS typically allows for a shorter hospital stay, leading to a faster return to normal activities, including work or school.
- Reduced Risk of Infection: The reduced trauma to the surgical site decreases the risk of postoperative infections.
Ideal Candidates for Minimally Invasive Scoliosis Surgery
Not every patient with scoliosis is a candidate for minimally invasive corrective surgery. This technique is most suitable for those with thoracic spine curvature – curvature in the vertebrae from the upper to middle part of the back. Traditional open procedures are often preferred for thoracolumbar and lumbar curves (lower vertebrae near the lumbar region) and patients with specific conditions that make MIS surgery less viable, such as double thoracic curves.
Whether minimally invasive or traditional surgery is available to a particular patient will depend upon the situation, and patients should consider carefully the surgeon’s recommendations as to what remedy is appropriate. Scoliosis surgery is a major procedure, regardless of the surgical method used, as it deals with the spine. While every effort is made to minimize risks and complications, they can still occur.
Patients with scoliosis face significant challenges in coping with the condition, which can cause chronic pain and often limits an individual’s ability to engage in many physical activities, including athletics. Thanks to modern medicine, surgery has provided many scoliosis patients with a new lease on life and the ability to enjoy physical activities, reducing the pain and problems associated with the condition. Historically, however, an effective remedy has always involved major surgery. Today, the MIS technique has the potential to give some scoliosis patients relief from their condition without the same degree of trauma that traditional surgery entails.
The AXIS Spine Center in Coeur d’Alene offers MIS scoliosis surgery to those patients for whom this is an effective therapy. If you or a family member have been diagnosed with scoliosis, consult with one of the members of the expert spinal team at AXIS to explore whether MIS may be a viable option. MIS may provide a suitable method for scoliosis patients to regain a healthier, more balanced spine. Contact the AXIS Spine Center to schedule an appointment.