The history of scoliosis surgery is full of failure. The first scoliosis surgery in 1865—the year the civil war ended—had terrible results and ended in a lawsuit, Guerin vs. Malgaigne. American doctors first performed scoliosis surgery in 1914. Scoliosis surgery was becoming fairly routine by 1941. The Harrington rod scoliosis surgery, in which a stainless steel rod is implanted along the spinal column, was created in 1953. It’s estimated that a million people had a type of this surgery in the following 40 years.
The Harrington rod surgery has been replaced by other surgeries such the eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF), which may be done alone or with Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF). The XLIF is called less invasive because the surgeon makes an incision through the patient’s side instead of a long incision down the back. The PLIF adds a bone graft fusion in the spine. A 2010 study says these surgeries still pose significant risks.
Pedicle screw systems, first developed by Cotrel & Dubousset, can correct the rotation of the vertebrae and balance the body. This system of screws is said to withstand wear and tear much better than the old spinal rods. Complications during and after surgery are still a huge threat, though. Serious complications include fluid in or around the lungs, spinal cord injuries and death. Lower limb pain, a wound rupture or infection and pneumonia are among the minor complications of scoliosis surgery.