Scoliosis surgery in adulthood: what challenges for what outcome?

Yann Philippe Charles, Yves Ntilikina


Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis that has progressed over time, de novo scoliosis, and degenerative scoliosis represent different types of adult spinal deformity (ASD). Functional impairment and muscular fatigue are due to sagittal and coronal imbalance of the trunk. Surgical treatment can provide a significant improvement of three-dimensional (3D) thoracolumbar alignment, function, and health-related quality of life (QoL). A patient-specific benefit-risk assessment, including clinical expectations, comorbidities, and the spinal deformity itself, has to be done preoperatively since the risk for mechanical complications is relatively high. Minimal invasive techniques combine posterior percutaneous instrumentation and lateral interbody fusion cages which enables vertebral realignment and indirect foraminal stenosis decompression. This strategy seems appropriate in mild and moderate ASD with a limited number of degenerated segments in the lumbar spine and remaining curve flexibility. Severe ASD needs to be addressed by open surgery, which combines posterior instrumentation, interbody fusion, and osteotomies in stiff deformities. Longer posterior instrumentation of the thoracolumbar spine, the sacrum, and the pelvis carries a risk for mechanical complications such as non-union and proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK). Modern surgical techniques including circumferential lumbosacral fusion and double rods might lower the risk for non-union. Accurate sagittal alignment planning, setting the lumbar sagittal apex according to pelvic incidence, and segmental lordosis distribution, are mandatory for minimizing the risk of PJK.