Impact of spine surgery on signs and symptoms of spinal deformity

Pediatr Rehabil. Oct-Dec 2006;9(4):318-39. doi: 10.1080/13638490500402264.


Paediatric scoliosis is associated with signs and symptoms including reduced pulmonary function, increased pain and impaired quality of life, all of which worsen during adulthood, even when the curvature remains stable. Spinal fusion has been used as a treatment for nearly 100 years. In 1941, the American Orthopedic Association reported that for 70% of patients treated surgically, outcome was fair or poor: an average 65% curvature correction was reduced to 27% at >2 year follow-up and the torso deformity was unchanged or worse. Outcome was worse in children treated surgically before age 10, despite earlier intervention. Today, a reduced magnitude of curvature obtained by spinal fusion in adolescence can be maintained for decades. However, successful surgery still does not eliminate spinal curvature and it introduces irreversible complications whose long-term impact is poorly understood. For most patients there is little or no improvement in pulmonary function. Some report improved pain after surgery, some report no improvement and some report increased pain. The rib deformity is eliminated only by rib resection which can dramatically reduce respiratory function even in healthy adolescents. Outcome for pulmonary function and deformity is worse in patients treated surgically before the age of 10 years, despite earlier intervention. Research to develop effective non-surgical methods to prevent progression of mild, reversible spinal curvatures into complex, irreversible structural deformities, is long overdue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Ribs / abnormalities
  • Scoliosis / complications
  • Scoliosis / physiopathology
  • Scoliosis / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*