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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Montgomery, AL/Tuscaloosa, AL
    Posts
    28

    Question new to forum; questions about surgery

    Hello everyone...I'm new to this forum and am so relieved to find such a wonderful resource for support and encouragement.

    I'm 20 years old and in school studying nursing at the University of Alabama. I first found out about my scoliosis during an unrelated doctor appointment when I was 16 and was referred to a local orthopedic surgeon/scoliosis specialist. At that time my lumbar curve was 39 degrees and my bones were done growing; the doctor told me to come back in a year to check the progression. Well, I didn't go back until today, three and 1/2 years later...due to a mixture of fear that it was progressing (as if not going to the doctor would make the problem wouldn't exist) and not having significant, chronic back pain. I had occassional lower back pain in my right side but my chiropractor usually resolved this. One of my hips is prominent (my waist is straight on my left and curved on my right) as well as my back muscle on the left side.

    My curve has progressed to 46 degrees, about two degrees per year, and my doctor expects it to continue to progress unless I have surgery. I plan on having the surgery in the next 6-12 months but am going to Dr. J. Kenneth Burkus at the Hughston Clinic in Columbus, GA next Friday, July 21 to get his opinion and get some questions answered about recovery time/getting back to school/all of my worries related to having the surgery. Has anyone heard of him or this clinic? I've heard fantastic things about the clinic, but have never heard anything about specific doctors there. Then again, I'm the only person I know who has scoliosis and is planning on having surgery!

    Have many people here had the anterior spinal fusion? When I went for my first appointment when I was 16, when my doctor first mentioned the possibility of surgery should the curve progress, this is the one he said I would have. Is it possible to have posterior fusion instead for lower back curves? Is one surgery more difficult/dangerous/difficult to recover from than the other? My curve is from the very lower thoracic to L4. I've got a ton of questions for my doctor but I was hoping I could get some info here first to ease my mind and to keep me from driving my family and friends crazy with more questions and worries they aren't sure how to address. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    35
    Hi Ashley! I don't have answers to most of your questions, but I just wanted to post because your situation is SO similar to mine! I was found to have a 29 degree curve when I was 15. I didn't get it x-rayed every year (like they said I was supposed to) because my parents were worried about the radiation. The doctors said it probably wouldn't get worse, wasn't bad enough for surgery, and a brace wouldn't do anything. We kind of interpreted that to mean "why bother x-rays?" Now at age 20 my curve is 55 degrees and I am also probably going to need surgery. Mine is also a lumbar curve. It seems that the anterior approach is preferable for lumbar scoliosis, I'm not sure why, but I've heard of people with the lumbar curve who have had the posterior procedure. I'm sure there are some people here who can tell you about the pros and cons of each one. Good luck, and if you don't mind, let me know what the doctors say about yor back, since it is so similar to mine! Good luck!

    Kathryn

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    311

    Anterior approach

    Hi Ashley,

    I don't know anything about the Houston clinic, but again, like the other reply, your situation is similar to mine. I also went to the surgeon yesterday (and yes, I have avoided the surgeon because somehow it might magically "go away.") I am 27 and my thoracolumbar degree is now 55. It started at 29 degrees when I was 13 and I was braced for 3 years.

    I also plan on having surgery in the next 12 months, but there is still a lot of confusion about it and it makes me nervous and unsure.
    My surgeon is planning on doing the anterior approach. What I learned about the anterior approach yesterday is that it is preferable to save as much flexibility as possible and it is "better" for the insertion of the rods and screws. However, he also said that the scar is more painful and difficult to heal and that the amount of pain relief that I would have is slightly more speculative. There are a lot of pros and cons, and I figure I will always question my surgeon, but I do trust his years of experience.

    They are also planning on fusing down to L4 and are not totally sure about how high they will fuse (anywhere from 7-12 vertebrae).
    I wish you the best of luck. I just discovered this forum too and spent hours reading through past messages.

    If you hear anything else about anterior, I would really appreciate hearing from you (or anyone).

    Best of luck!
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

    Previously 55 degree thoracolumbar curve
    Surgery June 5, 2007 - Dr. Clifford Tribus, University of Wisconsin Hospital
    19 degrees post-op!

    http://abhbarry.blogspot.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    6,952
    Quote Originally Posted by ashleym8118
    Have many people here had the anterior spinal fusion? When I went for my first appointment when I was 16, when my doctor first mentioned the possibility of surgery should the curve progress, this is the one he said I would have. Is it possible to have posterior fusion instead for lower back curves? Is one surgery more difficult/dangerous/difficult to recover from than the other? My curve is from the very lower thoracic to L4. I've got a ton of questions for my doctor but I was hoping I could get some info here first to ease my mind and to keep me from driving my family and friends crazy with more questions and worries they aren't sure how to address. Thanks!
    Hi Ashley...

    Most scoliosis surgeries can be accomplished from either the back or the front. Most surgeons have a preference, and there is no definitive research saying one is better than the other. If you prefer posterior fusion, you'll simply need to find a surgeon that does mostly that approach. You can find a list of specialists here:

    http://www.srs.org/directory/directory.asp?mode=search

    Regards,
    Linda

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Bucks County, Pa
    Posts
    274
    My surgeon is doing anterior/posterior surgery two days apart. That is his preference due to shorter surgeries. He also said that removing the discs during the first surgery make the spine more flexible for the insertion of the hardware. Surgery scheduled 9/6 and 9/8. Ironically my moms birthday is the 7th.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Sacramento,Calif.
    Posts
    420
    Welcome Ashley,

    Wow another lumbar scoliosis person! And here I just told Katheryn there weren't many of us. I was 49* now 8* fused from T10 to L4 on 2/22/06. When I first joined the forum there were only 2 people with lumbar only curves.

    As to your question about anterior VS posterior my Dr. said he only needed to do both if I wasn't flexable enough. If he didn't think he would get good results with posterior only, then would he do both. I also asked him about disc removal/replacement and he said it doesn't need to be done in everyone. (I got into a pretty heated argument with someone who runs a support group here. She insisted that this surgery could not be done without disc removal,WRONG!)

    As to having a preference........I think all of us would prefer to only have posterior, it's not like we get to choose. Some need both and it is up to your Dr. Make sure your Dr. has done this surgery MANY times.

    Read back and you will get a lot of information on everything you might never think to ask. I got a ton of info here and surprised my Dr. with my knowledge. Best wishes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    151
    I had my surgeries two days apart. I had disc removal to allow my spine the flexibility. I had two curves. I had one hip straight and the other curved out.
    I had a prominent rib hump in back also. My pain before surgery was in my right hip, it was severe. I felt when I had my surgery I really had no choice because of my pain. It was affecting my everyday activities.
    My curves were around 56 degrees when before surgery now around 30 some.
    I was 47 when I had my surgery. I believe a patients surgery is done to the Drs. preference. Good Luck. Mattie

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    72

    lumbar curve

    Suzy, i am a lumbar also and like you said there are more thoratic here for sure. I was just fused about a month ago T11 to L3 anterior only. Went from 45 to about 15. I definitely feel the incision and my left side is real "strange" feeling. I also had a rib removed and it was very uncomfortable. I am still in the early recover and it is still hard. Even though my scar is a bit long
    ( about 12 or 13 inches ) it is so thin and looks real nice. I am still trying to get my pics on here soon.

    Stephanie

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