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Spinal Fusion for Scoliosis: Before Your Child's Surgery

What is spinal fusion?

Scoliosis is a problem with the curve in the spine. Some curves in the spine are normal. But sometimes a spine makes a large curve from side to side in the shape of the letter "S" or the letter "C." If this curve is severe, it can cause pain and make it hard for your child to breathe. Spinal fusion is surgery that helps straighten the curves. It can relieve pain, make breathing easier, and give the spine a more normal appearance.

The doctor makes one or more cuts in the back. These cuts are called incisions. The doctor then attaches metal fasteners to the curved part of the spine. The doctor straightens the spine and puts small pieces of bone, called grafts, into the spine. These pieces are usually taken from the child's hip. Over time, the grafts grow together, or fuse, with the spinal bone to put the spine into the proper position.

Your child will stay in the hospital for several days after surgery. By the time your child leaves the hospital, your child may be able to dress, feed themself, and walk. Your doctor will tell you if your child has to come back to get stitches out. Your child may not be able to go back to school for a month or more.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Your child may need to shower or bathe with a special soap the night before and the morning of surgery. The soap contains chlorhexidine. It reduces the amount of bacteria on your child's skin that could cause an infection after surgery.
  • Talk to your child about the surgery. Tell your child that spinal fusion will help your child's body work better. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

The day before surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the surgery may be cancelled. If the doctor told you to have your child take any medicines on the day of surgery, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • Have your child take a bath or shower before you come in. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush their teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
  • Be sure your child has something that's a reminder of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by the anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery takes several hours to complete.
  • After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor your child's condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for the surgery.
  • Your child becomes ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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