To date, the bulk of the information you will find related to Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) on the Internet supports the use of back bracing and scoliosis surgery. Initially, treatment from a medical doctor consists of "observation only", until the Cobb angle progresses to 25 degrees, at which point the patient is placed in a scoliosis brace. When back bracing is unsuccessful in stabilizing the progression of the disease, which is frequently the case, scoliosis surgery is the only other option that the medical community has to offer.
Due to the complicated nature of idiopathic scoliosis and the difficulty in understanding and treating this condition, the development of a surgical method of treating idiopathic scoliosis by Dr. Harrington was understandable. However, science, & long term research agree that this procedure does not cure idiopathic scoliosis, but rather replaces one deformity (a flexible, curved spine) with another (a straighter, fused spine).
A majority of people we see, who have been treated with scoliosis surgery, report after the operation that their pain levels either stayed the same or worsened, leading to long term use of stronger and stronger pain medication. "On average, 16 years after surgery, 40% of surgery patient are permanently handicapped for the rest of their lives" (Long-term results of quality of life in patients with idiopathic scoliosis after Harrington instrumentation and their relevance for expert evidence. Gotze C, Slomka A, Gotze HG, Potsl W, Liljenqvist U, Stienbeck J. Z Orthop Ihre Grensgeb 2002 Sep-Oct, 140(5): 492-8).
"The current trend for management of these curves is early surgical intervention for scoliosis, the rationale being the ineffectiveness of back bracing in preventing the progression of such a large curve and the difficulty in obtaining satisfactory correction by postponing scoliosis surgery to a later date. On the basis of our results, we propose a conservative line of management for these curves, in contrast with current views, rather than to rush into a major spine surgery. If the curve progresses, scoliosis surgery can always be considered later, keeping in mind the excellent correction obtained with the pedicle screw systems even for large curves of 70 to 100 degrees."
~ A large adolescent idiopathic scoliosis curve in a skeletally immature patient: is early surgery the correct approach? Overview of available evidence.
Telang SS, Suh SW, Song HR, Vaidya SV. Department of orthopedics, Korea University, Guro Hospital, Guro-Dong, Guro-Gu, Seoul, Korea.
J Spinal Disord Tech. 2006 Oct;19(7):534-40.
"Correction of scoliosis (scoliosis surgery) is largely an elective cosmetic procedure in the young population, who account for the largest portion of the scoliosis surgery population. Associated with the correction, however, is a very real possibility of major neurological injury, including paralysis."
Tod B. Sloan MD, PhD
Anesthesiology Clinics of North America
Volume 15, Issue 3, 1 September 1997, Pages 573-592
After understanding these facts and considering the other complications involved with this procedure, you can see why we believe that scoliosis surgery should be a last resort for
the treatment of idiopathic scoliosis, to be considered only after every other non-invasive treatment option has been thoroughly exhausted.