When operating on the spine, a surgeon will often opt for one of two approaches: from the front (anterior) or from the back (posterior). However, it’s sometimes necessary for a surgeon to utilize both approaches simultaneously—in the cases of an extreme deformity or curve in the spine or if prior surgeries and non-surgical treatments to correct the curve have been unsuccessful, for example—with an approach known as anterior and posterior scoliosis surgery.

Under general anesthesia—and with constant monitoring of respiration, heart rate, blood pressure etc.—a surgeon will enter through the side of the chest (anterior) after a deflation of the lungs and removal of a rib in order to gain proper access to the spine. Then a disc is removed from between vertebrae of the impacted area of the spine, which allows the curve to flex and fuse.

After sealing the incision the patient is turned over and the surgeon again accesses the spine through a new incision, after which the back muscles are moved to the side. Metal rods are connected to the vertebrae with screws or wires, making the spine rigid enough so that it cannot curve anymore.

Post-surgery, a patient will commonly remain in the hospital for monitoring for one to two days (and possibly up to a week) during which pain management medications are administered. Also during this time the patient will be evaluated as to their post-operative condition, including their ability to walk, their range of movement, their respiratory function etc.

Complications from anterior and posterior scoliosis surgery can occur, and may include unexpected blood loss during the procedure and infections. Additionally, the surgery may be unsuccessful in that the fusion of the spine fails to be maintained, there may be damage to the nerves around the surgery site and normal lung function could be compromised.