Surgery Helps Adults With Scoliosis

Treatment Can Ease Back Pain for Spine-Related Complications

From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 27, 2003 -- Complex surgery to correct common problems caused by scoliosis or excessive curvature of the spine may provide lasting relief from back pain -- even in older adults. Although corrective spinal surgery is much more complicated in adults than adolescents, a new study shows surgical treatment can improve function and the quality of life for older people with scoliosis.

Most people have some curve in their spines, but scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves sideways and the vertebrae are misaligned, which can cause back pain and other complications. Most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed in adolescence and can be treated with braces or surgery to straighten out the spine.

But in adults, the condition can lead to severe low back pain and a condition called spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, which can compress the nerves and cause numbness or weakness in the legs, feet, and buttocks.

Researchers say about 500,000 adults in the U.S. suffer from scoliosis and have severe sideways curvature, but few studies have looked at the effectiveness of surgical treatment in older adults with scoliosis-related back pain and spinal stenosis.

In this study, Gary S. Shapiro, MD, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and colleagues, looked at 16 patients between the ages of 50 and 80 who underwent surgical treatment to decompress and stabilize the spine.

Overall, 94% of the patients said they were satisfied with the surgery after about two years of follow-up, and 69% reported significant pain relief.

Although no deaths were reported, the study found that 10 patients suffered major complications as a result of their surgery and eight of these patients required additional surgery. Two minor complications were also reported.

The findings appear in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Spine.

Researchers say the study shows that people with a combination of symptoms caused by scoliosis can get relief from back pain and improve their ability to perform daily activities.

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SOURCES: Spine, Feb. 15, 2003. WebMD Medical Reference with Healthwise, "Scoliosis." WebMD Medical Reference with Healthwise, "Spinal Stenosis."
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