Spinal deformities can be subtle and not regularly affect your day-to-day life. In other cases, they may be more pronounced, making you feel self-conscious and cause you physical pain.
The most common spinal deformities are scoliosis and sagittal imbalance. Both of these conditions can cause you to experience back pain, have difficulty standing up straight, have an uneven gait and, in more pronounced instances, have physically noticeable signs such as a hunched back or crooked spine. Whether your case is mild or more severe, spinal deformities surgery can give you peace of mind now and for the future.
What is Deformities Surgery?
Spinal deformities surgery is used to correct abnormalities in the shape of your spine. Depending on the severity of the deformity (taking into account angle of deformity, pain, and discomfort, the risk to other structures such as organs, etc), surgery such as spinal stabilization may be recommended.
Spinal stabilization requires that your surgeon create an incision along the area of your spine where the deformity exists. The muscles and other tissues will be carefully moved away. Your surgeon will then use bone graft to “fuse” the spine together, creating a straighter, more natural line. Metal implants are used to aid in keeping all of the vertebrae in place and at the proper angles until the fusion has healed.
For deformities that are at less than a 45-degree angle, your surgeon may be able to use a less invasive technique. By creating small incisions in your chest and back, areas along your spine are identified via an endoscope (a surgical microscope). Smaller bone grafts are put in place and metal implants are then used to move your spine back into alignment. Because there are smaller incisions and less muscle damage this type of spinal deformities surgery tends to have a quicker recovery time.
Recovery after Deformities Surgery
Once your surgery is finished and the surgeon has closed your incision(s) you will be moved to the recovery room. Here you’ll be observed until you wake up. You may receive pain medications to help you remain comfortable. Once you’re ready you’ll be transferred to a room for the rest of your hospital recovery.
Once you are awake, you may be asked to stand and walk around. You’ll continue to receive pain medications to control any discomfort. Sometimes post-stabilization surgery patients are required to wear a brace; your surgeon will be able to determine this after your surgery.
You will be released to go home after a few days. It’s important that you follow your doctor’s directions to help ensure the best outcome. If you’re a smoker, continue to abstain from smoking through the length of your recovery because it can interfere with your spine’s ability to properly heal.
You will be asked to attend follow-up visits with your surgeon. It’s important that you attend all of these appointments to track your progress. Your surgeon will take X-rays to determine if the bone grafts are successfully growing. With each visit, you will be released to increase your activity level if all is going as planned.
Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may be able to return to a light-impact job as early as three to four weeks after your surgery. If you had a more involved spinal deformities surgery this time frame may be longer.
Exercise is essential for helping to maintain flexibility and increase blood flow to encourage bone growth at the graft sites. Your neurosurgeon or physical therapist can advise you every step of the way on the appropriate exercises for each stage of recovery.
Risks of Deformities Surgery
All surgical procedures carry risks, but the rewards often far outweigh these unlikely occurrences. Some of the risks you should be aware of include:
- Nerve irritation or injury
- Spinal fluid leak
- Failure of bones to properly heal- this is known as “Pseudarthrosis” or “non-union”
- Continuation of pain
- Instrumentation flaws or malfunctions
- Numbness or tingling
Is Deformities Surgery Right for Me?
If you’ve been living with the pain or limitations of a spinal deformity, spinal deformities surgery may be exactly what you need to get your life back. When you have surgery for a spinal deformity, you can expect to:
- Gain mobility
- Find relief from pain
- Correct uneven or painful gait
- Enjoy better overall posture
- Eliminate the worry of more serious issues developing in the future
- Embrace a more healthy and active lifestyle
The decision to have any surgery – including spinal deformities surgery – is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Finding a surgeon you can trust is the first step in learning more about how this treatment can make a difference in your life.