Scoliosis Surgery Questions

I’ve compiled a list of common scoliosis surgery questions that I often get asked. I’ll keep adding to this page as I think of (or get asked!) more questions.

If you have any questions about scoliosis surgery, please contact me and I’ll do my best to answer them for you 🙂

Common Scoliosis Surgery Questions

What should I take to hospital?

PJs/nighties (nighties are easier with the catheter tube, but you can just wear hospital gowns, I did for the first few days after surgery)

Dressing Gown
Slippers with grip
Underwear – for the ladies, you won’t be able to wear a bra for a while as it’s too painful!
Shower gel/Bodywash
Facewipes/Bodywipes to freshen up
Antibacterial Hand gel
Sanitary towels (ladies…general anesthetic apparently nearly always brings on your period… fun eh?)
Dry shampoo (Life-saver!!)
Hair brush
Scrunchies/hair clips
Loose dress / cardigan to wear after surgery/comfy day clothes – the looser the better!
Bath towel/flannel/sponge
Plastic cups
Fruit squash – I drank a lot of Vitamin Water for energy.
Some dry foods like biscuits.
Books/magazines – although I was too ill too read them for the first week
Mobile phone
Paperwork (hospital letters)

For a handy checklist of what to take to hospital, see my blog post – scoliosis surgery what to bring to hospital.

How long did your scoliosis surgery take?

10 hours

Did you gain height after your scoliosis surgery?

Yes, about 1 1/2 inches

Did you wear a brace after surgery?

Yes, for about 3 months

How long were you off work after scoliosis surgery?

I was off work for about 5 months after my surgery. I went back after this part time for short days half days at first, slowly working my way back up to full time.

Is there anything you can’t do after scoliosis surgery?

Immediately after surgery, you cannot bend/lift/twist for a fair while and you need to be careful for the first year after surgery (while the bone fuses). Once your surgeon gives you the all clear though and your back is fully fused, there shouldn’t be much that you can’t do that you did before surgery. It really depends on the length of the fusion how restricted you are afterwards- I have a relatively long fusion (T3-L3) and so I cannot bend my back at all. Obviously this restricts some activities (Limbo, anyone?) but they aren’t generally things you need to do in everyday life. You learn to adapt and over time it feels “normal” (whatever that is!) As time has gone on I’ve found I’ve gradually been able to do more and more, felt more flexible and generally more confident that I’m not going to ‘break’ anything.

Do you set the alarms off at the airport after scoliosis surgery?

No. I’ve been on holiday lots of times post surgery and never set the alarms off at the airport. I used to take a letter from my GP with me but I don’t bother these days.

If you’re worried just you could always carry a copy of your x-ray with you, or failing that flash them your scar!

Why did you consider surgery?

The reason I considered surgery was because I had a severe curve (over 80 degrees) and was told by my consultant that because it was so large, gravity over time could cause it to get worse by 1-2 degrees each year.

I also had a lot of pain caused by muscle knots around my curve that were extremely sore and painful every day.
My main concern was it getting worse over time and having to face the surgery later in life, when recovery would be much tougher.

There is an argument that waiting might mean in the future surgical procedures would become more advanced. Maybe it would be less invasive and there would be better techniques. I was young and fit though and wanted to get it over with and move on (get a career etc as I felt my life was on hold for a while) rather than have it hanging over me.
It really is the toughest decision I have ever made though and definitely not one to consider lightly.

It’s best to talk to as many as people as possible, get advice and use the forums.

The scoliosis surgery book that I recommend on here is also very good for explaining everything.

Did you try any other solutions?

I did try lots of physio to help with pain and used to pay privately to have weekly massages to help my muscle knots. They always came back straight away though and this would only provide temporary relief.

I also tried acupuncture, heat therapy and did Pilates and swimming.

Swimming was the thing that helped me the most, I could manage my pain and muscle knots through swimming quite well and my back always felt great after a swim.

What did you feel like when you woke up?

When I woke up I remember feeling as light as air and in no pain whatsoever – thank god for morphine eh?!

I didn’t really have much concept of time and kept falling asleep and waking up again and it would be hours later, it was all very surreal to be honest. When I first woke up I was also very thirsty, my mouth was incredibly dry.
The night I woke up, I could talk to my family ok. I remember talking to my dad on the phone as he was worried so he rang ICU to see how I was and they let him speak to me!

The next day I thought I had dreamt it and I can’t remember what I said.

It can be quite scary for your family seeing you with all your tubes etc but you will feel ok and quite comfortable when you wake up, they make sure of that.

What is the pain like?

The pain straight after surgery is well controlled with morphine and strong painkillers. The worst part for me was when I came off ICU and went into the ward. The first few days in the ward were quite tough to be honest as you get moved about, rolled over etc and it can be uncomfortable.
The worst for me was meal times as I couldn’t sit myself up to eat 🙁 so I used to dread that. Once they get you up and about and you can go to the toilet etc, which is pretty quick to be honest, it gets a lot easier.

Are there any complications?

I would advise speaking to your consultant about this as every case is different and these can depend on age/fitness etc.

From what I’ve read, severe complications seem very rare with this type of surgery as they are done quite frequently believe it or not!

There is a risk of infection/reaction to anesthetic like there is with any type of surgery.

With any type of spinal surgery there is also risk of damage to the spinal cord. In the worst case scenario, there is a risk of paralysis. With scoliosis surgery, the risk is less than 1% due to the advanced spinal monitoring equipment they now use.

If you are waiting for scoliosis surgery, you may find my post on preparing for scoliosis surgery useful.

If you have any scoliosis surgery questions you’d like to ask me, please get in touch 🙂

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Scoliosis Surgery Questions


Image credit: Valerie Everett via Flickr.

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