View Full Version : Impact of surgery on ballerina

09-14-2009, 07:18 PM
Our 14 year old daughter, facing possible surgery, is a serious dancer (ballet, modern). I'm interested in finding out how the surgery is likely to impact her dancing. Her doctor said it would take a year before she could resume physical education classes at school..... a non-issue since we homeschool, but he indicated she could return to dancing sooner on a gradual basis. But I don't know if it is realistic for her to believe she will be able to dance post surgery. Anyone with experience in this area?



09-14-2009, 07:40 PM
Hi montana
welcome to forum..i sent you a private message...


09-14-2009, 10:01 PM
How long will her proposed fusion be? If it doesn't go too far down into the lumbar spine, she'll probably be able to still do a lot of ballet poses/dances.

Take Care,

09-14-2009, 10:27 PM
We haven't discussed what will be involved in a fusion. The doctor indicated we're not at the point of making a decision, yet. I've just been trying to get some idea as to what my daughter will face with respect to dance.


09-15-2009, 05:40 AM
We haven't discussed what will be involved in a fusion. The doctor indicated we're not at the point of making a decision, yet. I've just been trying to get some idea as to what my daughter will face with respect to dance.


As Laurie said, in order to get some idea, it helps to know where the curve is. If high, she may not notice any change in flexibility.

09-15-2009, 07:44 AM
The thoracic curve is 30, the lumbar 40. Dr. Osbold at Shriners Spokane said surgery would not be done unless the lumbar got closer to 45. If she goes back in December and there's been no change, or virtually no change, he said surgeons would not want to operate.

I can now visibly see the curvature through her clothes. Her right hip is definitely higher, her right shoulder blade more prominent. When she was initially diagnosed, the curvatures were 18/24 and remained at that for quite awhile, and the tests indicated she would not grow more, so we were optimistic. Then between the last two visits, she grew 1.5 inches, and the curves increased by better than 50%. She is Asian (adopted from China at 26 months), and we don't know the heights of her birth parents. She is 4 ft., 10 1/2 inches now, began her menses at 10, and will be 15 next month. The assumption based on the tests done at Shriners was that she was fully grown before this growth spurt of 1.5 inches which was when the curvature worsened by more than 50%.

She did a five-week dance intensive this summer in which she danced more than six hours per day, just before going back to Shriners and hearing how much the curvature had increased. I talked with her teachers about the scoliosis, and they said it was clearly not affecting her dancing. They said that her excellent posture from years of ballet keep the curvature from being as noticeable, and they encouraged her to maintain the ballet posture throughout the day. But this doesn't lessen the reality of a curvature of 30/40.

Montana Mom

09-15-2009, 09:07 AM
Okay that is very interesting.

It seems like her curve worsened considerably even though her growth was done, both on the basis of any bone tests I assume and also in relation to her being >2 years post menses.

This is what most surgeons might suggest DOESN'T happen, at least the part about progressing that quickly given skeletal maturity. Can I ask if the surgeons said this was highly unusual or anything like that?

I, of course, don't know what will happen but since she is clearly skeletally mature and is still sub-surgical, maybe the curve will stop at some point soon. We have at least one person on this group whose curve got all the way up to 50* and remains there for at least two decades.

I wish you and your daughter luck in this.

09-15-2009, 11:34 AM
Hi montana
as i said in private message, i danced when young...eventually, my across the floors & turns were affected, due to balance being impaired by curves...but curves didnt get really bad til i was much older....

might any fusion impair ability to arch the back...??

i think it is very important to address the curves as you are doing, since progression could bring much pain & debilitation...hopefully, the curves will stop right where they are....

i wish you much luck in your pursuit of answers


Ballet Mom
09-15-2009, 01:47 PM
Hi MontanaMom,

Unfortunately, with a subsequent 1.5 inches in growth, your daughter was not at skeletal maturity. Curves can change dramatically with growth. Do you mind telling us which tests were used to determine that she was skeletally mature? The hand x-ray is apparently a better indicator for skeletal maturity than the Risser sign (observed from the regular scoliosis x-rays), although the hand x-rays are not typically used in order to reduce the number of x-rays taken. Perhaps with the lower x-ray exposure in the new digital x-ray systems, this could change and the doctors could use a more accurate test on children who are post-menarchal. Perhaps her doctor could do this test in order to determine if she could benefit from a brace still. Especially since you have no idea how tall she could end up, as many Chinese people are quite tall.

My daughter is a serious ballet dancer and was diagnosed with a 35 degree thoracic scoliosis curve (and lower compensatory curve) when she was twelve, she is now 14 years. She was placed in a Charleston Bending Brace at night in order to stop the quickly increasing curvature. Before she got her brace, her right shoulder and scapula were also changing rapidly and she was losing her balance in turns, especially en pointe. It was very frightening as she fell en pointe a few times due to the quick change of balance that was occurring in her body. Fortunately, the brace worked and the progression stopped.

My daughter's ballet teacher told me at the time that she will have a much more difficult time with ballet than the other students due to her shoulders not being level and would have to work much harder than the other students. Fortunately, the teacher has been working with her on posture, mainly keeping her shoulders level and keeping rib cage and scapula tucked in and in conjunction with using her brace, you basically can't tell she even has scoliosis anymore and her turns are much better, she can do triple pirouettes en pointe now. :)

I think the answer to your question is that everything is very individually variable. Some girls with fusions end up quitting ballet completely, because they just can't continue...others continue on with somewhat less flexibility in their spine just because they love dance so much. One girl went on to a top flight summer intensive very soon after scoliosis surgery.

I had never heard of being able to be a professional ballet dancer after fusion surgery, but look at this thread's comments and notice that one lady says her daughter's surgeon performed a partial fusion surgery on two ABT dancers and they are still dancing professionally! I'd love to be able to verify that! But read the comments, they're very enlightening.


Also, I came across a post here in this forum's archives, with very good advice from David Wolpert, an author of a scoliosis surgery book who posts every once in a while at this forum. The comments are also interesting...although there is a serious debate about the effectiveness of the Spinecor brace that is mentioned farther down in the comments, especially on larger curves and during the adolescent growth spurt. But the comments are nevertheless helpful.