Have you heard the term scoliosis but are not quite sure what it is? Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with scoliosis and you want to know more about it? Are you curious about the effects of scoliosis and how it can be treated?
June is Scoliosis Awareness Month, and in honor of that we hosted two special live events on Facebook. On Monday, June 18, Dr. Peter Angevine from The Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York was interviewed in a Facebook Live session to talk about adult scoliosis and how neurosurgeons treat it. On Thursday, June 21, Dr. Richard Anderson, pediatric neurosurgeon, was interviewed to talk about pediatric scoliosis—more on this event in another blog post.
Dr. Angevine is uniquely qualified to answer questions, as he has had special training and experience in treating scoliosis, as well as performing other types of complex spine surgery. He joined us on Facebook fresh from the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), where he led a panel discussion for his fellow neurosurgeons on how to evaluate and treat adult scoliosis.
Scoliosis is a side-to-side curvature of the spine. When you look at a person’s spine from behind it typically goes straight up and down. With scoliosis, the spine curves to one side or the other. But beyond this simple description, scoliosis takes many different forms, depending on the exact location of the curve and whether it is large or small. Scoliosis can also have several possible causes, or sometimes no apparent cause at all. It can be symptomless and cause no problems, or it can cause pain, numbness and weakness in the legs. It can be treated by waiting and watching, with physical therapy or with braces, casts or surgery.
Scoliosis most commonly occurs in adolescents. When an adult is diagnosed with scoliosis, it’s sometimes because she had it as a teen or child but it went undetected. Other times the curvature happens because the spine is degenerating, or wearing down over time. Degenerative scoliosis can become painful and debilitating if it compresses the cord or delicate nerves of the spine.
Dr. Angevine’s background makes him particularly well-suited to managing the complexities of adult scoliosis, especially degenerative scoliosis. He has training in both neurosurgical and orthopedic approaches to the spine. (Usually a spine surgeon has trained as either a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic spine surgeon.) A neurosurgeon has greater expertise on the nerves that run through the spine, and an orthopedic surgeon is an expert on the bones and joints of the spine.
Dr. Angevine says his training and experience in both neurosurgery and complex orthopedic spine surgery have also taught him that every case is unique—that “you never treat an X-ray, you treat a patient.”
A good example of this is his patient Constance. When Constance first came to Dr. Angevine
her X-rays showed scoliosis so serious he expected her physical capability to be severely limited. But instead, Constance was very active in martial arts and was even coaching for USA Judo, judo’s Olympic association.
Because Constance was active and not in pain, Dr. Angevine decided to watch and wait and have her do physical therapy rather than rush to a surgical solution. What seemed like a debilitating type of scoliosis on X-ray proved to be of little hindrance to Constance. You can read more about Constance and watch a video of her story here.
On the other end of the spectrum, Dr. Angevine’s patient Elizabeth came to him with scoliosis that was causing severe, unrelenting pain. She underwent a surgery in which Dr. Angevine detached parts of her spine, realigned them, and put them back together using metal screws and rods. This was a complex surgery that Dr. Angevine spread out over two days, to give Elizabeth’s body time to rest between procedures. You can read about Elizabeth’s surgery here. You can also read about a similar operation Dr. Angevine performed on Candace, a patient he treated in tandem with Dr. Paul McCormick.
With so many different ways scoliosis can present and so many different aspects to consider, this interview with Dr. Angevine is not to be missed. You can find the video on our Facebook page or here. If you’d like a consultation with Dr. Angevine and have all necessary prerequisites like imaging, etc, contact his office at (212) 305-1550.