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Adult Scoliosis Treatment

Minimally Invasive Scoliosis Treatments

When treating scoliosis in adult patients, neurosurgeons at UPMC begin with a conservative approach, which includes observation and physical therapy. When symptoms remain progressive and unresponsive to conservative treatment, surgical correction is considered. Treatment for scoliosis at UPMC is individualized to the type and degree of scoliosis, the symptoms of the patient, and the specific health concerns of each patient.

Traditional surgery for scoliosis has involved operating through the abdomen to obtain access to the front of the spine, followed by a surgery from the back. These methods have been associated with many long-term health issues and serious risks.

As the management and treatment of scoliosis has evolved, UPMC neurosurgeons have shifted from traditional methods to a more advanced surgical approach known as XLIF®, or eXtreme lateral interbody fusion.

Many patients are eligible for this innovative minimally invasive surgery, which often can:

  • Minimize complications
  • Relieve pain by providing decompression of the nerves
  • Optimize spinal balance
  • Achieve a solid fusion

What to expect during XLIF surgery

In this procedure, the neurosurgeons access the spine from the side of the body instead of from the front or back, as in traditional open procedures. For appropriate patients, this procedure is associated with shorter operative times, shorter hospitalizations, and shorter recoveries, yet similar success in pain relief when compared to traditional open surgeries for scoliosis.

Other patients may be candidates for a staged surgical approach aimed at functional and cosmetic correction of the curve in addition to alleviation of pain. The initial surgery is performed to decompress the nerve roots and restore flexibility to the spinal column.

After a few days, a second surgery is performed employing the advanced, minimally disruptive XLIF® procedure. To correct the alignment of the spine, neurosurgeons replace the damaged areas with height-restoring cages and biological agents. Screws and rods are then placed to finalize the correction and fortify the structure and alignment of the spine.

This approach not only limits the surgical scars, but also the blood loss, pain, and many of the complications associated with the large abdominal incision that has traditionally been used. Patients also experience shorter rehabilitation and recovery times and often lead a normal and active lifestyle.