Kyphosis is a spinal condition that results in a stooped forward posture. While surgery can be very gratifying for the patient, it can also be quite serious. As a result, it is always wise to get a second opinion before pursuing surgery to address this condition.
Kyphosis is considered to be a form of juvenile osteochondrosis of the spine. This is a condition where the vertebrae grow unevenly in the sagittal plane. In order words, the anterior vertebral body height is often less than the posterior vertebral body height yielding uneven growth and a significant “wedging” shape of the vertebra: this wedging is what causes the kyphosis, or stooped forward posture. Patients with kyphosis cannot consciously correct their posture and often have a quite rigid apex to their curve. This condition is found mostly in teenagers and presents a significantly worse deformity than adolescent postural kyphosis.
To make the diagnosis, an x-ray of the complete spine needs to be taken from the side profile. If the problem is simply due to postural abnormality, nothing else abnormal will show up on the x-ray other than excessive kyphosis. However, if the kyphosis is due to Scheuermann’s Disease, the x-ray will show three or more adjacent vertebrae that are wedged together at least 5 degrees each. Curves that exceed 50 degrees but are less than 75 degrees may be treated with a special type of brace and curves that exceed 75 degrees are potential surgical curves. If the curve exceeds 90 degrees it is quite common to have a surgical recommendation. The operation consists of a spinal fusion with screws and rods. Although this is a serious operation, the results can be very gratifying for the patient and certainly help to improve self-esteem.