Team behind the life-changing operations

PUBLISHED: 09:04 02 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:56 22 October 2010

Scoliosis is a condition that is tackled by a specialist team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Scoliosis is a condition that is tackled by a specialist team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

It involves spinal surgeons, physiotherapists, anaesthetists and patient liaison staff who can talk to families about the operation and what it entails or put them directly in touch with other families who have been through a similar experience and help them understand the decision-making process.

The team also includes surgeon Robert Crawford; two dedicated consultant anaesthetists in Dr Paul Barker and Dr Lorna Kerr; patient liaison officer Ann Chandler, who is also the Scoliosis Association regional representative; paediatric physiotherapist Veronica Van-Ree; Gordon Lindsay who is responsible for measuring patients and fitting braces, ward nurses and a skilled team of theatre nurses as well as a muscular-skeletal radiologist.

Consultant orthopaedic and spinal surgeon Am Rai explained that before major surgery all the cases are fully discussed by the specialist team at the N&N, which is the only unit in East Anglia offering a comprehensive spinal service.

The surgery can often be risky and lengthy with a key element being the careful monitoring of the nerves to ensure that damage is not caused to the spine during the operations.

The unit sees 10-14 cases of scoliosis a week from the region, most referred via GPs, and performs up to three major operations such as those on Thomas every month.

While some cases need surgery, many can be treated by a body brace which helps to straighten the spine naturally. But if scoliosis is untreated the curvature gets worse and eventually leads to increased pain, causes lungs problems and difficulty in breathing.

Mr Rai said: “The operations are pretty high risk, but the results can be very good. It is satisfying to give a good cosmetic appearance for the child and also give them an opportunity to lead a normal life.”

The patient liaison officer enables families - and children - in a similar situation to talk to one another.

Mr Rai said: “Sometimes making the decision to have the operation is the most difficult one and it can be a great help if that experience can be shared.

“Patients who come in with significant curvatures are often introverted, particularly adolescents, and it can have a profound influence on their outlook in terms of confidence.

“But it is a privilege to be able to offer this type of service to patients. We see them at clinic and then see them go out mostly with a happy outcome.”

The unit deals with all aspects of spinal surgery from scoliosis, fractures, tumours, and degenerative conditions such as disc pro-lapses.

There are hopes that the team can see the expansion of the special spinal injuries clinic and eventually work toward having a spinal injuries rehabilitation centre.

t Scoliosis Association: or telephone 0208 964 1166

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