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When is surgery recommended for a child with scoliosis?

Luke Macyszyn, MD
Neurosurgery
Surgery is only recommended for a child with scoliosis when the curvature of the spine exceeds a certain magnitude, which is usually 50 degrees. If the child has not reached puberty, but the curve magnitude is over 50 degrees, surgery is indicated because the spinal curve is very likely to continue to progress, especially during puberty when a child grows significantly.
 
In a skeletally mature adolescent (past puberty), and even young adults, surgery is performed when the patient has functional problems due to the scoliosis. Functional problems usually occur with larger curves and can manifest as severe back/leg pain or lung function compromise. Also, surgery at any age may be indicated when the spine curvature continues to progress and doctors want to prevent significant deformity by realigning the spine in a more anatomic position.
Surgery for scoliosis is only done when the curving of the spine is severe and going to cause problems for your child's health either now or in the future. For example, your child's doctor may suggest it if the curving is making the chest area get smaller, which can cause breathing trouble. This is a major surgery, with risks and a long recovery period. It is usually postponed until your child's bones stop growing. Until then, a brace is often used to prevent the scoliosis from getting worse. Sometimes, just wearing the brace can prevent the need for surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.