Spinal Fusion for Scoliosis3 min read

When my daughter went for her 11 year old annual exam, her pediatrician noticed she had a curvature in her spine. This curvature, referred to as scoliosis, is a medical condition in which a person’s spine has a sideways curve. The curve is usually “S” or “C” shaped. In some, the degree of curve is stable, while in others, it increases over time. Mild scoliosis does not typically cause problems, while severe cases can interfere with breathing. Typically, no pain is present. 

For Nataleigh, her curvature increased pretty rapidly from the time she was initially diagnosed. When we saw the orthopedic doctor, he measured her curvature at over 20 degrees in the upper half of her spine and 38 degrees in her lower spine. He said we needed to immediately get her into an upper body brace because if the curvature reaches 50 degrees surgery would be required.

We had her fitted for a brace which was very uncomfortable for her. She didn’t like wearing it but she made an attempt to wear it like she had been directed. She never went more than 9 to 10 hours a day in it. She was supposed to wear it 22 hours a day.

After about 6 months, we went back for another check up and she was measured both in and out of her brace. She had increased curvature in the brace and a significant increase out of the brace. She had exceeded the 50 degree point. Because of this, spinal surgery would be required.

The surgery is referred to as spinal fusion. They will make an incision in her back, approximately 13 inches in length, and will attach rods to each side of her spine as a way to hold it in place. Then they will roughen the bone until it bleeds causing the bone to repair itself. Some donor bone will be placed on her spine which will also help the healing process. In the end, her spine will become solid except in the vertebra above and below the fusion.

We are scheduled for this surgery some time in the very near future. I plan to write a series of articles which describe the process she undergoes and the feelings we have as parents getting through this process with her. She will miss between 3 and 4 weeks of school and there are other complications which can arise from a surgery such as this. According to her surgeon, this surgery is the hardest surgery an orthopedic surgeon performs because everything in her upper body gets moved. Her heart, lungs, ribs, and other organs all get moved when they adjust her spine.

I have been telling myself there is nothing much to worry about and the doctors know what they are doing. However, as we get closer to her surgery and I think more about it the more worried I become. Nataleigh has even become more worried as we get closer. In the end, I think everything will be just fine, but as I have already told others, I think things are going to be very interesting around our house for a while.

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