Scoliosis Surgery Risks
1. Paraplegia risk with scoliosis surgery
The most concerning risk with scoliosis surgery is paraplegia. It is very infrequent (about 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 chance) but is a devastating complication. To help organize this risk, the spinal cord can be monitored during surgery through one of two methods:Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SSEPs). This test involves small electrical impulses that are given in the legs and then read in the brain.
2. Excessive Blood Loss
Another risk with scoliosis surgery is uncontrolled blood loss. There is a lot of muscle stripping and exposed area during the surgery. With proper technique the blood loss can usually be kept to a reasonable amount and blood transfusions are rarely needed. As a precaution, many surgeons will ask the patient to donate his or her own blood prior to surgery (autologous blood donation), which can then be given back to the patient after the surgery. Also, during scoliosis surgery the patient’s blood can be collected and transfused back to the patient.
3. Other Potential Risks and Complications
- The rods breaking or the hooks or screws dislodging (although with modern instrumentation systems, this type of hardware failure is quite uncommon)
- Infection (less than 1%)
- Cerebrospinal fluid leak (rare)
- Failure of the spine to fuse (about 1%-5%)
- Continued progression of the curve after surgery
Following scoliosis surgery, patients usually can start to move around about 2 to 3 days after the procedure. The total hospital stay is usually about 4 to 7 days. Patients can return to school about 2 to 4 weeks after surgery, but activity needs to be limited while the bone is fusing.It is important to note that the more immobile the spine is kept the better it will fuse. Bending, lifting, and twisting are all discouraged for the first three months after surgery. For this reason, some surgeons will prescribe wearing a back brace for a period following the surgery which helps to restrict movement. Any physical contact or jarring type activities are restricted for about 6 to 12 months after surgery.