Adult degenerative scoliosis fixation

Adult degenerative scoliosis fixation

Adult degenerative scoliosis surgery, also known as fixation of adult degenerative scoliosis, is a procedure that can correct the curvature of scoliosis in adults by approximately 50 percent and, at the same time, stop the progression of the spinal curve(s) of scoliosis.

Adult degenerative scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, meaning that the vertebral column bends from side to side instead of straight up and down. The condition is a result of degeneration of the facet joints, which are small joints between the bones (vertebrae) of your spine that help it move. When the facet joints are deteriorated, the surrounding bones or vertebrae shift and stack on top of one another, which then causes the spine to curve abnormally to the side.

Surgical treatment to correct adult degenerative scoliosis is not common. Orthopaedic specialists prefer a "wait and see" approach to monitor how the curvature progresses and changes over time. According to the National Scoliosis Foundation, adult degenerative scoliosis does not get worse in approximately 60 percent of cases. Of the remaining 40 percent, about 10 percent show significant progression. The other 30 percent show a very mild progression of spinal curvature of less than one degree per year. For this minority, surgery as the treatment of choice may be necessary under the following conditions:

  • When non-operative treatment methods have failed and pain persists
  • The curvature is progressive or excessive (curves of more than 45 degrees).
  • There is evidence of cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) problems caused by the curvature.


Surgical treatment for adult degenerative scoliosis is a combination of two commonly used and time-tested procedures: a spinal instrumentation system and spinal fusion. Together, the two procedures are known as fixation. Spinal instrumentation is the use of hooks and screws applied to two or three vertebrae of the spine to anchor long rods. The rods are used as a temporary splint to reduce and secure the spine while bone grafts are added and have time to fuse with the existing bone.

The length of recovery following surgical treatment for adult degenerative scoliosis varies depending on the preoperative nature of the deformity, the extent of surgery performed and the age of the patient.  Patients may get back to full activities as soon as three months after surgery or as late as six to nine months following the procedure. Often, patients benefit from a brief stay in an inpatient rehabilitation facility following the initial hospital stay.

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