Spinal Deformity

A spinal deformity occurs when the spine has an abnormal curvature. Normally, the spine has three gentle curves: inward curves (lordosis) at the lumbar and cervical spine; and an outward curve (kyphosis) at the thoracic spine. These three curves allow for the spine to uphold the body over the hips and pelvis and maintain its center of gravity. Abnormal spine curvature does not follow the normal spine curves and results in a loss of the body’s alignment and center of gravity. Examples of spinal deformity conditions include scoliosis, kyphosis and loss of lordosis.

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Diagnosis of a spinal deformity starts with a physical exam and medical history. Other procedures and tests may be needed to diagnose, including x-rays , computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment options

There are different treatment options depending on the severity of your symptoms and/or progression of the deformity:

  • Medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Braces
  • Spinal deformity correction surgery. Surgery involves many techniques to correct scoliosis, kyphosis or other deformities and bring your spine into a more normal alignment. It is used in spinal deformities that are developmental or that because of a degenerative spine condition. This type of surgery is often performed with severe spinal deformities or when the condition leads to restrictions in your daily life, pain or loss of function. During the procedure, your surgeon will relieve any pressure on your spinal cord or any nerves that may be compressed. Bone screws are placed in multiple vertebrae (the bones of the spine). These screws are connected to a rod. The rod is used to “pull” your spine into a more normal alignment. The number of screws and spinal levels depends on the location and severity of the spinal deformity. The surgical correction may require an osteotomy, which is a strategic cut in the vertebra used to loosen your spine and aid in realignment. If an osteotomy is needed, it is sometimes followed by placement of a cage, implant or graft to help with the correction of the deformity. Additionally, your surgeon may remove some of the intervertebral discs and replace them with a cage, implant or graft in order to aid in the correction of the spinal deformity. After the correction of the deformity, your surgeon will need to take measures to make sure your spinal bones fuse, or grow together. A successful outcome is greatly dependent on the fusion. Your surgeon may use a combination of your own bone, cadaver bone, bone matrix, stem cells and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) to help your spine fuse.

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