Review Article

Is there an indication for surgery in patients with spinal deformities? – A critical appraisal

Hans-Rudolf Weiss, Xiaofeng Nan, Matthew A. Potts
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 77, No 2 | a1569 | DOI: | © 2021 Hans-Rudolf Weiss, Xiaofeng Nan, Matthew A. Potts | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 March 2021 | Published: 04 October 2021

About the author(s)

Hans-Rudolf Weiss, Schroth Best Practice Academy, Neu-Bamberg, Germany
Xiaofeng Nan, Nan Xiaofeng's Spinal Orthopedic Workshop, Xi 'an, China
Matthew A. Potts, Dorsi Spinal Institute, Nottingham, United Kingdom


Background: High-quality evidence exists to support physiotherapy and brace treatment for scoliosis and other spinal deformities. However, according to previous systematic reviews, it seems that no evidence exists for surgery. Nevertheless, the number of research articles focussing on spinal surgery highly exceeds the number of articles focussing on conservative treatment.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to conduct an updated search for systematic reviews providing high-quality evidence for spinal surgery in patients with spinal deformities.

Method: A narrative review including PubMed and the Cochrane database was conducted on April 12, 2020, with the following search terms: (1) spinal deformities, surgery, systematic review and outcome; (2) kyphosis, surgery, systematic review and outcome; (3) Scheuermann’s disease, surgery, systematic review and outcome, and (4) scoliosis, surgery, systematic review and outcome.

Results: No reviews containing prospective controlled or randomised controlled studies were found providing evidence for surgery.

Conclusions: A general indication for spine surgery just based on the Cobb angle is not given. In view of the long-term unknown variables and the possible long-term complications of such treatment, a surgical indication for patients with spinal deformities must be reviewed on an individual basis and considered carefully. A current systematic review appears necessary in order to be able to draw final conclusions on the indication for surgery in patients with spinal deformities.

Clinical implications: In view of the increasing number of surgeons with an affiliation to industry, the indication for surgery needs to be given by independent conservative specialists for spinal deformities in order to provide an objective recommendation.


spinal deformities; scoliosis; kyphosis; spine surgery; evidence; indications


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