Scoliosis and kyphosis are sideways and forward deformities of the spine that can lead to both aesthetic and functional issues for patients. Patients who suffer from scoliosis or kyphosis stand stooped forward or leaning to the side and may have difficulty with day to day activities due to mechanical pain and/or nerve irritation. Patients who are in the advanced stages of these deformities may even have problems with breathing and digestive tract function.

However, surgery for these and other spinal deformity conditions is a major undertaking and patients are well advised to carefully consider their options and make an informed decision.

Treatment for Scoliosis and Kyphosis

Surgical treatments for scoliosis and kyphosis may be recommended to alleviate the symptoms, reduce the spinal curve/straighten the posture, and improve function In general, the initial operation is a major undertaking with substantial risk. It is important for patients to have realistic expectations for the outcome of their surgery.

Risk of Failed Back Surgery

While results for deformity vary due to a number of reasons, I tell patients that the general rule of thumb for outcomes is as follows:

  • 6 to 7 out of 10 patients report very good outcome
  • 2 to 3 out of 10 report no substantial improvement
  • 1 out of 10 reports worsening of the symptoms or having had a complication with the surgery.

It is the 1 out of 10 patients who do not do well that are the big concern.


Revision Surgery

If the original surgery did not address the initial symptoms, did not result in adequate correction of the deformity, or resulted in an infection or implant issue, then a revision surgery may be indicated.

These types of revisions are even more substantial than the initial procedure, require careful evaluation of the symptoms, and require a thorough discussion of the expectations after a revision surgery. In a revision situation, we typically see the following outcomes:

  • 5 out of 10 patients report improvement
  • 3 out of 10 patients report no improvement
  • 2 out of 10 report worsening or yet another complication.

Surgery for treatment of scoliosis, kyphosis, and any type of spinal deformity is an extensive procedure and has inherent risks. To optimize the outcome and minimize the risks requires a concentrated effort by a dedicated and skilled medical team, with an informed patient.