When an adult has scoliosis it’s likely to be “degenerative,” meaning that the curve is caused by wear and tear on the spine. Spinal discs and joints can wear down in spots, causing the spine to lean to one side.
Scoliosis is often treated by orthopedic (bone and joint) surgeons. After all, the spine is made up of bones, right? But the bones of the spine contain the spinal cord, the bundle of nerve fibers that runs from the brain to the base of the spine, branching out into nerves all over the body.
In degenerative scoliosis the bones of the spine can compress these nerves, causing pain, weakness, tingling and numbness. Orthopedic surgeons are experts on the bones, but neurological surgeons are experts on these delicate nerves in the spinal cord.
When spinal nerves are compressed and damaged, neurological surgeons have the knowledge and skills needed to address the nerves and minimize the damage. Because of this, more and more neurological surgeons are using their skills to help adults with degenerative scoliosis.
Dr. Peter Angevine of the Spine Hospital of the Neurological Institute of New York is uniquely positioned to understand and treat the problems of both the bones and nerves in the spine.
He is one of the few neurosurgeons in the country to have completed a spine fellowship in orthopedic surgery in addition to his training as a neurosurgeon. And he is committed to helping his fellow neurosurgeons gain a better perspective on adult spinal deformities.
He most recently took his unique perspective to the annual scientific meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) for a breakfast seminar on “Management of Adult Scoliosis.” Dr. Angevine and his fellow neurosurgeons woke up bright and early to discuss evaluation and management of spinal deformities.
As a panelist at the seminar, Dr. Angevine emphasized the importance of addressing both the neurological (nerve) problems that go along with spinal degeneration and the spinal deformities themselves, with the goal of helping patients to have healthy and functioning spines—both bones and nerves.