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How is scoliosis surgery done?

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Surgery for severe scoliosis usually involves a bone graft and spinal fusion held in place by metal rods, according to the Scoliosis Research Society. Patients generally receive this type of surgery if they have a spinal curve of 50 degrees or greater that may get worse later in life.

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Spinal fusion involves fusing each of the curved vertebrae together so they stop growing, notes the Scoliosis Research Society. The fused bones form into a single, solid bone structure when they heal, and this prevents the curved spine from getting worse. Surgeons use a bone graft to promote bone growth in the fused vertebrae. This bone material may come from the patient's hip, a bone bank or from artificial bone graft materials. The surgeon places small pieces of bone graft material in between the fused vertebrae.

Metal rods hold the spinal fusion and bone grafts in place until the fusion occurs, says the Scoliosis Research Society. Rods attach to the spine with screws, hooks or wires. Rods typically remain in the spinal column after surgery since the bone grows around the metal.

Scoliosis surgery usually takes between four and 12 hours, according to the Scoliosis Research Society. The length of the procedure depends on how many bones the surgeon fuses together. Teenagers normally return to school two to three weeks after the surgery. Patients generally no longer require pain medication by three to six weeks following the procedure.

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