Health Team

New procedure helps scoliosis patients

Posted January 20, 2010 7:35 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2010 9:08 p.m. EST

— Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, doesn't just occur in children. It is not often diagnosed, but it is common in older adults with arthritis.

Patients suffering from scoliosis often require surgery to relieve the pain, but a new procedure is offering a quicker recovery.

Howard Hill, 75, learned about the new procedure, called X-Lif, from Duke orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Brown.

“In all my joints, I have terrible arthritis,” Hill said.

Hill’s condition led to degenerative discs in his back, and to scoliosis. The collapsed vertebrae pinched on his nerves, causing pain.

Hill said because the recovery time for the standard surgery to reduce his scoliosis symptoms was six months, he decided to try the newer, less invasive X-Lif procedure.

“It's taking surgery that used to be done with incisions … and it's doing them through small stab incisions on the sides to gain access to the sides where the pathology is,’ Brown said.

During the X-Lif procedure, the patient lies on their side while the surgeon removes the affected disc or discs.

“And you can put spacers in which literally straighten it up as you put them in at each level,” Brown said.

With the patient lying face down, small stab incisions allow the surgeon to place screws and then fuse and stabilize the affected bones with rods.

Instead of half a year of recovery, Hill said he felt back to normal in six weeks following the X-Lif procedure.

“Surgery has been a miracle,” Hill said. “Now I have hardly any back pain at all.”

Hill said he is now able to exercise more and be as active as he wants to be without the fear of back pain.

Brown said the X-Lif procedure also dramatically cuts down on post surgery infection rates and repeat surgeries.