Who Needs Scoliosis Surgery?

Patient’s spine X-ray showing scoliosis

Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that affects two to three percent of the population, meaning an estimated six to nine million people in the United States have scoliosis, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. While most cases of scoliosis can cause uncomfortable symptoms, not all require surgical treatment. However, patients suffering from severe cases may be recommended for surgery.

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics helps patients throughout northern New Jersey suffering from a variety of spine related medical conditions, including adult scoliosis and adolescent scoliosis. Here, Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics discusses further what scoliosis is, how it is diagnosed, and when surgery may be necessary.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical condition that can be found in both children and adults. It refers to the sideways curvature of the spine. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. In other cases, this medical condition can be a result of degeneration of the spinal discs caused by arthritis or osteoporosis or the result of a hereditary condition. While patients may experience symptoms differently, the most common symptoms of scoliosis include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Difference in waist height or position
  • Head that is noticeably off center from the rest of the body
  • Difference in arm length when standing straight
  • One shoulder blade protrudes more than the other
  • One hip is clearly higher than the opposite side
  • One side of the rib cage is more prominent than the other

Most physicians can accurately diagnose scoliosis through physical examinations, although X-rays, spinal radiographs, CT scans, or MRIs may be necessary. The curve of the spine is measured by the Cobb Method, and the severity of the condition is based on the number of degrees in the curve.

When Is Scoliosis Surgery Necessary?

Most cases of scoliosis are mild and require non-surgical treatments such as bracing to help prevent the curve from progressing. If not treated, a patient’s curvature can worsen as they grow. Progressed curvature can lead to severe cases of scoliosis that can result in complications with breathing and problems with the lungs. This is because it can reduce the amount of space within a patient’s chest.

Although there is no clear understanding as to what causes scoliosis, most surgeons who specialize in spinal deformity will agree surgery is necessary when the spine is curved 45 to 50 degrees or higher. If this is the case, certified physicians will recommend one of two surgical treatments, such as:

Spinal Fusion

A spinal fusion surgery is performed to correct significantly misaligned or deformed vertebral bones. This type of surgery involves the use of prosthetic bone grafts to provide maximum stability to the spinal construct. The prosthetic, generally made from titanium, plastic, or carbon fiber, also helps the patient maintain correct spinal alignment and height.

The length of the procedure and recovery time will depend on the patient’s symptoms and the severity of the patient’s scoliosis spinal deformity. Most patients are advised to refrain from bending or twisting the spine along with lifting heavy objects for at least several weeks after the procedure.


This routine type of surgery helps alleviate the pressure that is being put on the spine due to scoliosis. During laminectomy surgery, one or more portions of the lamina are removed. By removing the problematic lamina, a patient will have their back or neck pain alleviated as well as their range of motion and strength restored. Laminectomy is also used to treat a variety of other common spinal conditions including:

Treating Scoliosis & Other Conditions at CNSO

Patients throughout the northern New Jersey area who are suffering from a wide range of medical conditions, such as scoliosis, can find the compassionate care they need at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics. The board-certified medical staff at CNSO includes experienced neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons who offer effective care and treatment for spinal deformities, including scoliosis surgery. Patients who believe their scoliosis is severe enough to require surgical treatment, or who wish to learn more about other treatment options, should contact CNSO today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics