Should My Teen Get Surgery for Scoliosis?
Adolescent scoliosis can be alarming to parents because curves progress quickly during growth spurts. Many parents feel guilty that they didn’t notice the curve sooner, and worry that the curve may continue to progress at a rapid rate. However, the ultimate level of curvature depends on how much more growing your child has to do. Once your child reaches their adult size, the curve will most likely stop growing, unless it was greater than 40-50 degrees during adolescence.
Small to medium curves, which we define as 10-25 degrees and 25-40 degrees respectively, generally don’t advance in severity beyond the teen years. We can’t reverse the curves, but we do monitor them and may recommend treatment with a TLSO brace to stop curve progression. These nonsurgical options reduce the risk of the curve growing large enough to warrant surgery.
If someone tells you that physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, exercises or other remedies besides research-supported braces can reverse or stop curve progression, be skeptical. It’s best not to take your chances with therapies that haven’t been clinically proven. Time is an important factor to consider: the sooner a medium-sized curve is properly braced, the less time it has to potentially develop into a large curve.
Surgery has some drawbacks, so we prefer to avoid it if possible. Active teens have to consider how recovery time might affect extracurricular activities. As with any surgery, complications are possible. When we discuss surgery, we help you and your teen weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks and make our recommendation based on the individual patient.
Here are some reasons to consider surgical treatment on large curves:
- Unlike most small to medium curves, large curves often continue to advance even after your child stops growing.
- Recovery time for adolescents is typically shorter than that for adults.
- Adolescents are typically more flexible than adults, making curves easier to correct.
- Thoracic curves can lead to breathing and cardiac issues.
- Lumbar curves can lead to painful conditions and premature arthritis.