Please note these questions are answered by people who have had spine fusion surgery for scoliosis, and not by professionals, physicians, or other health care providers.
These are the opinions of those who are living Life after extensive spine fusion.
1. Will I grow after surgery ? Based on asking this question in our group forum, it seems that most of us gained about 2 inches of spine length just from the surgery itself. Growth of the spine cannot occur once it is fused which is why physicians try to wait until the child is near the end of their growing years. Some of us reported growing another 2 inches after surgery with that height coming from leg length.
2. Are people in pain with scoliosis ? This depends. Most of the time younger children with scoliosis are not in any pain. It seems the older one gets without curve correction, the higher the incidence of back pain. Double curvatures (S-shaped) seem to have less pain maybe because there is a postural balance that occurs when there are 2 curves rather than one.
3. Will I be able to touch my toes after surgery ? Actually, YES! If the back of your legs (hamstrings) are flexible enough you can hinge from the hips and touch the floor. Your spine will not round forward (flex) like people without a fused spine so the forward bend will all come from the hips as well as any unfused vertebrae below the fusion.
4. Will pregnancy be difficult for me with a spine fusion ? This answer comes straight from Julie who had one pregnancy at age 32 with T3-L3 spine fusion. "I had no problems with my pregnancy as far as back pain until the very end, although many people without fusions have back pain at the end of pregnancy. Towards the end I had a little nerve pain down my leg and a lot of stiffness in my lower back." Many other women report no difficulty with pregnancy, but more chronic back pain during the "lifting" years when the babies are young.
5. Will the rods cause me pain ? They should not. Many of us have little "flare ups" of pain here and there and particularly a common spot between the thoracic spine and the shoulder blade that flares up and feels like a burning or stabbing sensation. I have been told this can be a bursa covering the top of the rod, and I have also been told it's an irritation of the tissues rubbing over the top of the rods. Most of us manage this with ibuprofen, resting the shoulder, and limiting repetitive shoulder movement.
6. Will my rods break ? They should NOT break free from the spine. Although it does happen and usually within the first year to two after surgery. One of our Forever Fused members posted this "One of the rods broke free. It sounds very dramatic and sudden but let me assure you it wasn't!! It was a gradual increase of pain in the base of the neck and trapezius region. I also noticed the rod protruding more than normal. An x-ray showed a huge bursa around the top of one of the rods so the surgeon decided to remove what instrumentation he could at that point." If rods "break" or break free from the spine, the surgeons can go back in and remove the section that is unstable. If the spine is completely fused at that point, no additional hardware is usually indicated.
7. How can I strengthen my abdominals as sit ups seem hard after fusion ? There are lots of neutral spine abdominal exercises you can do. I have a no-sit ups core video HERE. Even the classic plank is great for us just make sure to actively pull the naval toward the spine. If plank is too hard try plank on knees. One of our forever fused members told us she uses her breath on a quick exhale pumps the belly muscles in towards the spine and holds. She says she does this everywhere even while driving ! Isometrics is the key ! Traditional abdominal exercises can be modified, so you can still (and should) work hard to strengthen your core musculature.
8. Can I get an epidural during delivery ? Many of our women chose to deliver their babies "naturally" without epidurals. Some of the others were able to get successful epidurals if their fusions stopped between L2-L3. It will definitely be a more challenging epidural and depends on the skill of the anesthesiologist. For those that had C-sections, several were able to get successful spinals and others went under general anesthesia. We have one mom in our Forever Fused group who is fused to L4 and had 4 vaginal deliveries with successful epidurals so YES it can be done!
9. Will my spine still curve above and below the fusion? Some of us have seen slight changes in the spine in the unfused areas and others have not. This seems to have something to do with how much was left unfused as well as one's individual curvature genetics.
10. Is scoliosis just a disease that women have ? NO! The incidence is higher in females but men can have scoliosis too. We have several men in our Forever Fused Facebook group.