Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thoughts shared from an adult patient treated with non-instrumented spinal fusion as an adolescent years ago.

On Friday at Hey Clinic, I met Linda a 60 year old young lady, who had an adolescent idiopathic scoliosis surgery years ago, done without instrumentation. Things sure have come a long way since then! Now we even have high performance athletic adolescent patients returning to sports within weeks of surgery. Years ago, as you will read below, adolescents were in a body cast for a year!

Linda now has concerns about her scoliosis progressing below her fusion, and her quality of life being affected.

She emailed me back this weekend with a writeup of her story, and what she learned from her clinic visit with us.... she wanted to share this with all of you!

Thanks Linda for sharing. Dr. Lloyd Hey -- Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery


On Sun, Feb 5, 2012 at 12:33 PM, ---- wrote:

Hey Dr. Hey!

Here is some information about my life with scoliosis. Please feel free to share it or not. It was a pleasure to meet you on Friday. My husband and I both came away feeling better about our knowledge of the problems with my back and also feeling that we are in good hands. Thank you for that.



Many moons ago, at the age of 13, I was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis.

The first orthopedic surgeon I saw recommended two surgeries over a period of two years. The second one recommended either one surgery or possibly a Milwaukee Brace. This surgery would be followed by casting and most of the next year in bed. As you can imagine, I was very scared.

In August, 1966 the surgery was performed at UNC. Initially, I was placed on a Stryker Frame which could turn me over like a pancake. Then after about two weeks, I was placed in a body cast. And finally, back home again. For my sophomore year of high school, I had a homebound teacher. And luckily, I had three siblings and great parents to help me get through this time. Unfortunately, we had just moved to NC the same month I had the surgery, so there weren’t any friends close by. One friend from our old home wrote to me every day that year-what a blessing. She is still my friend.

After six months strictly in bed, I was able (sort of) to get up and walk—no PT.

Then I could be up for a total of about 2 hours a day. And a year after the surgery, the cast was removed. The surgery was a success. My thoracic curve had been reduced from 45-50 degrees to 25!

Fast forward 45 years to the present. My thoracic curve now measures 64 degrees and my lower curve 55 degrees. I have had remarkably little pain associated with my back over the years and have been active. In the last 18 months, I’ve developed some pain in my hips. This has been diagnosed as bursitis, which is related to the scoliosis. About this same time, I first came to the Hey Clinic. I came to the clinic because I want to be proactive about my scoliosis as I get older. I’ve seen two of Dr. Hey’s associates, but today I saw him for the first time. He encouraged me to write this blog to share a little about my history and also to write about what I learned today.


  1. My two curves are well balanced which can be a good indicator of fewer problems to come.
  2. What facets are and how the breaking of these probably caused my spondylolisthesis which is Grade 1 (out of four). This can also contribute to loss of height.
  3. That your spine can fuse itself in some areas (somewhat) to help prevent worsening of pain and further damage.
  4. The importance of monitoring curve progression as well as other measurements like trunk shift in determining treatment for adult scoliosis.
  5. Humans adapt to gradual health changes by changing their everyday habits, so things like walking shorter distances or leaning on the grocery cart when shopping may indicate worsening problems with your back.
  6. Keeping a log of good and bad days can help monitor changes in quality of life.

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