Surgery for scoliosis in adults is rare, but in cases where there are pinched nerves with severe leg symptoms surgery may be beneficial. Although the treatment for pinched nerves in the straight spine is a decompression alone, scoliosis typically requires a fusion to stabilize the spine. A fusion consists of turning 2 or more vertebral bodies into 1 by causing the bone to literally fuse together. In most cases titanium screws and rods are used to help stabilize the bones while they heal together.
These surgeries can be complicated surgeries that span a large portion of the spinal column and have up to a 40% complication rate in patients over 60 years old.
Adult scoliosis surgery takes at least 3-6 months to recover from, and even up to a year to get back to normal. The wound is quite tender for the first week or two after surgery, and most surgeons send patients home with prescription narcotic medications. You can typically get out of bed and walk either the same day or the following day after surgery is completed. Many patients who have sedentary office jobs can return to work within 4-6 weeks.
Most patients who have leg symptoms will have 70-80% relief of those symptoms from surgery. Back pain is more challenging to cure with a fusion for scoliosis, but most patients will have some relief of their back pain.