Complex spinal deformities can cause debilitating pain, restricted movement, even low self-worth. MUSC Health Spine Center specialists partner with patients to get them relief – no matter the patient’s age or cause of the pain.

“There's a lot we can do to help people who have back pain related to a complex spinal deformity. With our skilled surgeons and comprehensive support team, we have capabilities today that we didn’t have before,” says Charles Reitman, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon and co-director of the MUSC Health Spine Center.

Spine surgery can be complex. To avoid complications, Dr. Reitman pays particular attention to patients’ health prior to greenlighting surgery. Working together with patients, he helps improve their symptoms and self-image.

Common Causes of Back Pain From Spinal Deformities

Many adults with spinal deformities suffer from the effects of an untreated childhood ailment. However, spinal deformities may occur at any age and be caused by other factors, including:

  • Injury
  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Degenerative disease
  • Postoperative complications

“The main types of spinal deformities include sagittal plane deformities, such as kyphosis, and coronal plane deformities, such as scoliosis. For both these conditions, corrective spine surgery can be pretty complicated,” says Dr. Reitman.

Partnering With Patients to Make Spine Surgery Happen

Because spine surgery can pose so many complications, Dr. Reitman says many spine surgeons may be reluctant to perform surgery on older patients or those in less-than-ideal health.

The team at MUSC Health Spine Center works with patients to make spine surgery possible for them, regardless of their health impediments.

“A patient with a severe sagittal plane or coronal plane deformity, for example, may be in severe pain, unable to stand up straight and may have limited function. That patient shouldn't think twice about getting evaluated for spine surgery — no matter their health or age,” he says.

Dr. Reitman notes the importance of patients taking ownership over their health prior to spine surgery, which helps avoid complications and ensures more effective results. Dr. Reitman works with patients to overcome health hurdles before surgery.

Common roadblocks that can impede healing and recovery include:

  • Smoking
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Heart disease or lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Low bone density
  • Poor bone quality


Dr. Reitman emphasizes: “If patients commit to tackling any health problems they have (with our support), then we can often get them through surgery safely and effectively. That’s our goal: to find patients relief, safely and help them lead a more fulfilling life.”

Spine Surgery Offers More Than Back Pain Relief

When patients optimize their health prior to surgery, Dr. Reitman says they optimize their chances of success.

“Spine surgery is not a walk in the park for anyone. At MUSC, we have a high-level, coordinated critical care team that can handle complicated cases. For patients who commit to ensuring they can reach their ideal health prior to surgery, it’s more than worth it,” says Dr. Reitman.

“With many complex spinal deformities, the body is in a position that it simply wasn't meant to be in. Corrective surgery does more than relieve pain – it improves patients’ self-image and self-worth. Even though it’s a high-risk surgery with potential complications, the vast majority of patients who have been through it tell me that they’d do it all over again, in a second. Patients say spine surgery gave them their life back. That’s what we’re here to do, for as many patients as we can,” he says.

For more information, contact Dr. Reitman at reitman@musc.edu.