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Health Information For Parents
Doctors do spinal fusion surgery to help kids and teens with scoliosis or other spine problems.
It’s called “fusion” because the surgery lets two or more bones in the spine (called vertebrae) fuse (grow together) into one solid bone. This helps the spine grow in a straighter position and sometimes eases back pain.
Many kids with scoliosis don’t need medical treatment. Others wear a brace to keep the spine from developing more of a curve.
But some kids have scoliosis that’s too severe to be helped by a brace. Or they might be too old for bracing. Others may have a type of scoliosis or other spine condition where bracing doesn’t help. These kids may need a spinal fusion to straighten the curve as much as possible and stop it from getting worse.
Kids and teens having a spinal fusion will get general anesthesia. This lets them sleep through surgery. The operation takes several hours.
After a fusion, most kids stay in the hospital for a couple of days. That gives them time to recover from surgery and increase their movement. By the time they go home, they’ll be able to walk around and do many day-to-day things (shower, dress themselves, and climb stairs).
Kids whose scoliosis is very severe or who have other medical conditions might need a longer hospital stay. Their care team will watch for and treat any complications (such as pneumonia, constipation, or trouble eating).
Most kids take prescription medicines regularly for less than 2 weeks to help them deal with pain and muscle spasms. Over time, they can take less pain medicine. Sometimes, kids can switch to acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the health care provider says it’s OK.
To help your child heal at home:
Your health care provider also will let you know when your child can go back to school. Most kids go back about 3–4 weeks after the surgery. But they can’t go to gym class or play sports for a while (usually 2–6 months). That’s because the bones are still fusing. Let the school staff know your child will need help at first. The school can give your child extra time to get through the hallways or a second set of schoolbooks to keep at home.
Sometimes kids need physical therapy to complete their recovery. This usually starts about 4–6 weeks after surgery. It can continue for several months.
After about 6 months to a year, the bones should be fully fused. The metal rods are no longer needed but they stay in the patient’s back because they aren’t doing any harm. Taking them out would involve another operation.
After a full recovery, kids can play sports and do the activities that they enjoyed doing before surgery.
Scoliosis makes a personâs spine curve from side to side. Large curves can cause health problems like pain or breathing trouble. Health care providers treat scoliosis with back braces or surgery when needed.
Kids with scoliosis have a spine that curves, like an S or a C. If scoliosis is suspected, a doctor may order X-rays to measure the curvature of the spine.
Good preparation can help your child feel less anxious about getting surgery. Kids of all ages cope much better if they have an idea of what’s going to happen and why.
Doctors often recommend physical therapy for kids who have been injured or have movement problems from an illness, disease, or disability. Learn more about PT.
Spondylolysis is a very common cause of lower back pain in kids, teens, and young adults. It usually heals quickly with rest and other nonsurgical treatments.
Spondylolisthesis happens when a bone in the back slips forward and out of place. In kids and teens, itâs a common cause of lower back pain.
Without bones, muscles, and joints, we couldn’t stand, walk, run, or even sit. The musculoskeletal system supports our bodies, protects our organs from injury, and enables movement.
Knowing the basics of anesthesia may help answer your questions and ease some concerns â both yours and your child’s.
Our bones, muscles, and joints form our musculoskeletal system and enable us to do everyday physical activities.
Knowing what to expect with surgery before you get to the hospital can make you less anxious about your surgical experience – and less stress helps a person recover faster.
Physical therapy helps people get back to full strength and movement – and manage pain – in key parts of the body after an illness or injury.
Physical therapy uses exercises and other special treatments to help people move their bodies. Find out more in this article for kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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