View Full Version : First Time Surgery At 57

03-24-2005, 06:33 PM
I'm almost 100% sure of going for scoliosis (with kyphosis) surgery but . . . the more I research the more I know I should do this, but there's always a doubt about doing major "elective" surgery.

I am currently a tennis coach who will probably stop coaching tennis and move into intramurals.

I have a 50 degree curve which has gone from 47-46-50 within a period of five years. The only surgeon I've gone to see is Keith Bridwell from Wash U. I think he's one of the best. He says that 50% of the surgeons would say do the surgery and probably 50% would say don't do it.

Am I crazy for not getting a second opinion? Bridwell did say that there was a 95% likelihood of me getting worse. If I do the surgery, there's an 80% likelihood of the results being great, a 15% likelihood of my saying why did I do this and a 5% likelihood that something not good would happen.

My major concern is that I live alone and while I can get help from my daughter (who has a 5 year old child) she won't be staying with me. The surgery is proposed to be from T3-L4. Will I be able to get around (like walk) when I get home from the hospital? The nurse at the doctor's office said sure, but I figured I'd asked those who have done this.

Does anyone play tennis or golf after doing scoliosis surgery? I have adjusted to the limitations currently placed on my body by the scoliosis. I move fine one way and not good the other way.

As a person in athletics, I've always been used to having some discomfort. Sometimes my hip hurts and there is a noticeable rib hump. If you asked me whether or not I've had pain because of my condition, I'd probably say no because I've learned to ignore it.

Any thoughts would be great.


03-24-2005, 07:05 PM
Hi Lynn...

You've asked some excellent questions.

If you had a less well known surgeon, I'd definitely recommend that you get a second opinion. I agree with Dr. Bridwell, that half of the surgeons would recommend against surgery.

Although you should be able to get around the house by yourself when you come home from the hospital, you probably won't feel up to making meals. I would definitely recommend that you either plan on going to a nursing facility, or hire someone to stay with you for the first week.

I've really been surprised at the vast difference in people's recoveries. I've known young adults who had very long, tough recoveries. And, I've known elderly patients who had very easy recoveries despite very difficult surgeries. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any way of figuring out what type of recovery each of us will have.

In terms of golf or tennis, Joe O'Brien, President of the National Scoliosis Foundation, plays golf. He's had several surgeries.

We each have to decide for ourselves whether surgery is appropriate. If I were in your shoes, I suspect I'd decide against having the surgery. Your curve sounds like it's not progressive, and you have relatively little pain. The surgery itself can be a very painful procedure, and that surgical pain can be long-term. I've found that the people who are the least likely to be happy with their outcomes are adults who lead relatively normal lives without pain.

I have a quick quiz on my website to help you think about all of the elements of surgery:



03-24-2005, 10:26 PM

Thanks for the quick reply.

I did take your quiz regarding surgery and scored 12-9. It seems that when the curve is at 50 degrees, there is a greater likelihood that progression will occur (it has already) and that I'd much rather do the surgery when I'm healthy as opposed to REALLY elderly.


03-24-2005, 10:58 PM
Hi Lynn....

The margin of error in curve measurement is +/- 5 degrees. If your curve has only increased 3 degrees in 5 years, I'm guessing that most surgeons would say that your curve is not progressing. Curves over 50 degrees generally increase, but some don't.

I'm not really trying to discourage you from having surgery, but I want to be sure you know that the risks are really significant.


03-25-2005, 12:26 PM

I appreciate your honesty. Right now, I'm deciding when to have the surgery. My professional position will be changed from coach to intramurals so that I will be able to adjust to the new "me."

I'm going to have the surgery to improve my current condition and to minimize changes in the future.

Kyphosis is the condition that concerns me because I'm really tired of being told to stand up straight. I'm also concerned that scoliosis can negative affect my heart and breathing.