Preparing for scoliosis surgery

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Learn about what to expect when preparing for a scoliosis surgery, including X-rays, clinical photos, pulmonary assessment, and blood work.

Key points

  • You may be need to have certain tests done before surgery, including X-rays, clinical photographs, tests for pulmonary function, and blood work.
  • Prior to surgery, you may be asked to donate one or two units of blood in case a transfusion is needed during or after your surgery.
  • Blood donation is completely voluntary. If you are unable or unwilling to donate blood, you can still receive a transfusion from the blood bank or a directed donor.

Generally, there are several things that need to be done before surgery can happen. A nurse may review all of these things with you in a teaching session. In the teaching session, the nurse will tell you what will happen during your hospital stay. They will also let you know how to prepare yourself physically for surgery. This might involve taking a shower using a special soap and brush the night before and morning of surgery.

Tests before surgery

You may need certain tests before surgery. These may include X-rays, clinical photographs, tests for pulmonary function, and blood work.

  • X-rays: The surgeon requires current X-rays to plan the surgery. This will help them determine where to place different types of hardware, such as hooks, rods, and screws.
  • Clinical photos: Some surgeons like to have before and after photos taken. These will help the surgeon and you to see the changes that take place to the shape of your body after surgery.
  • Pulmonary function: These tests tell your surgeon how well your lungs are working. Depending on the size of your curve, your lung function may be impaired. Generally, this happens with very large curves only. Your surgeon might want to measure the changes that take place in your lung function before surgery and sometimes after surgery. For example, they may want to measure how much air you can move in and out of your lungs. Not all patients will have pulmonary function tests before surgery.
  • Blood work: Some basic blood work is required so that the surgeon knows your blood type and your hemoglobin level. Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Blood donation

Many surgeons request that their patients donate one or two units of blood before the surgery. This is called pre-donation. It is done in case a transfusion is needed during or after surgery.

Pre-donating your blood for surgery is a good idea. But many teens feel very anxious about it. There are a few things that can be done to make the experience easier. A numbing cream can be used on your skin over the vein to take away the pain of the needle. You can also watch a movie during the donation. You can do some noise-making exercises to help release anxiety.

Blood donation is voluntary. If you don’t want to try, or you change your mind about trying, you will not be forced to donate blood. If you are unable or unwilling to donate blood, you can still receive a transfusion from the blood bank. You can also have one of your parents donate blood for you – this is called a "directed donor" donation.

Last updated: June 1st 2008