A Teenager Looks to a Bright Future after Overcoming Scoliosis
Starting around age 9 and continuing until she was 16, Stephanie wore a back brace designed to try to keep the curve in her spine from progressing. She wore her brace 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, both while she was awake and during sleep. It was a difficult time for Stephanie. The brace hindered her involvement with many activities in which she wanted to participate, and even dictated the type of clothes she could wear (large, baggy shirts became the order of the day). In addition, like any normal adolescent, she was at times self-conscious of both the brace and the curve in her spine.
Unfortunately, despite everything Stephanie went through, the bracing was not enough to keep her curve from getting worse. The curve progression was causing her more and more pain and putting her in serious danger of having other health problems.
At this time, her parents found Dr. Akbarnia and the San Diego Center for Spinal Disorders. Dr. Akbarnia advised Stephanie and her parents that surgery would be necessary to correct her curved spine and prevent further problems.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted surgery,” recalls Stephanie. “But he explained the procedure to me. Actually, he wanted to do 2 surgeries in one day!”
When the day of her surgery arrived, Stephanie was very nervous. “They gave me some kind of sedative medicine, which helped a lot. Also, Dr. Akbarnia came to talk to me before the surgery. He made me feel totally comfortable and more at ease. It was pretty scary, but knowing that Dr. Akbarnia was there made me feel so much better. He’s awesome!”
Stephanie’s surgery lasted about 12 hours. Her spine was fused both in the front (anterior) and in the back (posterior) using stainless steel implants and her own bone for as graft. As a result, she went from a curvature of 105° to 41°.
“I don’t remember a lot right after my surgery,” recalls Stephanie. “I know I was able to give myself pain medicine (using a special patient controlled pump) and that helped. By the time I was awake and aware of what was going on, it was 2 days later!”
Stephanie spent 8 days in the hospital, but was up and walking after only 2 days. As part of her recovery at home, she wore a brace for about 3 months. She was able to return to her daily activities as soon as she felt able. “A nurse visited me at home during the first week I was home, which was really nice. After that, I just kept feeling better and doing more. I had to avoid sports for a while, but that was ok. Mostly, I was excited that I wasn’t going to have to wear a brace any more.”
Today, Stephanie is pain-free and brace-free. "It’s so fun to go clothes shopping now! I don’t have to look for big shirts that will hide or fit over the brace. I can still do all the stuff I did before, even swimming, which was such a pain when I had to deal with the brace."
"I’m so glad I had the surgery." Stephanie adds. "I really have Dr. Akbarnia to thank for giving me my future. Now that I don’t have to wear a brace any more, I feel more confident and better about myself. I am very involved in acting and will be pursuing that even more. If I was still wearing a brace, I’m not sure I’d be able to follow this dream. Thanks Dr. Akbarnia!"