What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an abnormal curving of the spine. All spines have a natural curve, however, patients with scoliosis have excessive spinal curving. Usually, scoliosis develops during the growth spurt before puberty, between the ages of 9 and 15. Additionally, some cases of scoliosis are present at birth or due to underlying neuromuscular conditions. The majority of cases are due to unknown causes.
Symptoms Of Scoliosis
Patients with mild cases of scoliosis have no symptoms apart from the irregularity of their appearance. If the curve of the spine worsens, however, treatment will become necessary. When the spine twists, patients may experience:
- Low back pain
- Extreme fatigue after sitting or standing
- Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek treatment for scoliosis in Fort Worth.
How Is Scoliosis Diagnosed At The DFW Center?
When diagnosing scoliosis in Fort Worth our staff at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders will perform a physical examination of the back, shoulders, waist, and hips. This includes taking a spinal curve measurement, using a device called a scoliometer. In addition, patients suspected of having scoliosis typically undergo neurological examinations to evaluate muscle strength, reflexes, and areas of numbness.
After those initial examinations, our staff will also administer imaging tests to determine the severity of the problem and to rule out other possible reasons for the curvature of the spine, such as tumors. Diagnostic imaging tests may include CT, MRI and bone scans.
Can Scoliosis get worse with age?
Scoliosis is generally considered to be a progressive condition. Studies suggest that it does worsen with age, though there is no predicting how quickly that may happen. Because studies also indicate that physical growth is a trigger for scoliosis progression, doctors tend to monitor young patients closely.
“Everybody at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders was kind and helpful. Dr. Tinley answered all of my questions so I felt like I received the best care possible.”
Types Of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is not just labeled as one type of condition, it affects the entirety of the spine in different ways. The types of Scoliosis include:
Abnormal development of vertebra, present at birth. Sometimes the vertebra fails to form normally, leading to an abnormal curvature of the spine.
This is the most well-known type that presents most often in adolescence. Both girls and boys can develop idiopathic scoliosis which is hereditary.
The results of underlying neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy, myelodysplasia, muscular dystrophy, polio, spinal cord injury, etc.
Adult-onset form that occurs secondary to the development of degeneration of the spine and its joints. This is most common after the age of 50.
Scoliosis Treatment Options
Treatment options for scoliosis are based on age, gender, location, and severity of the curve. It is important to discuss treatment options with our staff before deciding which treatment, if any, may be best for you. Initial scoliosis treatment includes monitoring the curvature closely and, if necessary, wearing a brace. This does not cure scoliosis, but it may impede the further progression of the curve.
Once patients have reached maturity, and their bones have stopped growing, there is little risk of the scoliosis worsening. Our staff can assess this growth by the onset of puberty and bone growth tests. Adults may benefit from scoliosis management such as physical therapy or medication. Typically, surgery is not an option unless patients are suffering from a significantly limited physical function. Most patients with scoliosis, even in severe cases, are able to lead normal, productive lives after successful treatment.
What can happen if Scoliosis goes untreated?
Treatment becomes necessary when the spinal curvature exceeds a certain measurement. A curvature of 50 degrees or more is considered severe. The accentuated curve can cause physical discomfort, limited activity, and spinal rotation. If the spine rotates, there is a risk of heart problems and decreased lung capacity. In addition to the long-term health and emotional consequences that occur, scoliosis can also cause spinal structures to degrade more quickly. Patients are at risk of spondylosis, an arthritic condition in which the spinal joints become inflamed and cartilage wears down. Spondiylosis can result in painful bone spurs.
Scoliosis Surgery In Dallas
After trying other treatment options, more serious cases of scoliosis may require surgical intervention. In most cases, spinal fusion surgery is performed to treat scoliosis. Spinal fusion is a surgical option that connects two or more vertebrae with bone grafts or artificial materials.
During spinal fusion for scoliosis, metal rods are installed to stabilize the area until the bones grow together. Although such surgery is normally done after the patient has finished growing, when the scoliosis is progressing at a dangerous rate, an adjustable rod may be inserted. This allows the rod to be lengthened every 6 months and accommodate the child’s growth.
The DFW Center provides scoliosis surgery in Dallas and the nearby areas.
What is recovery like from Scoliosis Surgery?
Surgical recovery is a gradual process that, fortunately, gets increasingly better after the first few weeks.
During the first 14 days or so, the patient relies heavily on others for basic care and daily tasks. Prescription pain medication may be needed for a few weeks, which can cause drowsiness. Rest is vital to healing, so sleeping more than usual is absolutely acceptable. Around 14 days after surgery, the first post-op visit takes place. The patient will discuss how their recovery has been and any challenges they have encountered. The doctor examines the incisions and back and outlines a plan to follow until the next appointment. At this point, some patients may be cleared to return to school or a very light desk job. The patient may begin to wean off of prescription medication in favor of a milder pain reliever like acetaminophen.
X-rays may be taken about 6 weeks after surgery to evaluate the fusion process. At this point, the patient will likely still tire quickly and may feel more generally fatigued than normal. However, the doctor may clear additional activities, such as going out with friends for short periods. If fully transitioned off narcotic pain medication, the patient may return to driving.
Between 6 and 12 months post-op, x-rays are taken to measure the degree of fusion that has occurred. Fusion could be complete as early as 6 months but can take longer. This is normal and depends on the patient’s unique physiology. When full fusion is reached, all activity restrictions are lifted. It can be beneficial to discuss the safety of high-impact activities with the doctor before trying them.
Will my surgery results be permanent?
Scoliosis surgery has a very high success rate, reaching approximately 70% curve correction. Treatment results in bones fusing together in a straighter pattern, so results are permanent.
How to care for your spine health after Scoliosis treatment
Patients can expect to do all of the things they did before their surgery once the spine has fused successfully. The primary recommendation for spinal care is to maintain good posture. Sitting and standing properly allows the joints to position themselves in their natural neutral positions. Imbalance pulls on the muscles around the spine, creating tension that could lead to pain. Good posture is not about preventing a return of the curvature; it’s all about comfort.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are experiencing scoliosis symptoms contact our office today at 817-916-4685 to schedule a consultation with one of our scoliosis specialists. DFW Center for Spinal Disorders serves Fort Worth and surrounding areas in Texas.