Scoliosis surgery leads to favorable outcomes in patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), according to the results of a literature review and meta-analysis published in the European Spine Journal, because “vital capacity remains either unchanged or the rate of deterioration is decreased after surgery.”

According to the authors of the study, these are both considered favorable outcomes since lung function progressively worsens over time in the natural course of the disease. 

To determine the effect of scoliosis surgery on lung function in patients with SMA, a team of researchers led by Alexander Hadjipavlou, MD, conducted a review of the literature and a meta-analysis using patients’ forced vital capacity data before and after surgery.

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After reviewing 127 articles that reported the effect of scoliosis surgery on lung function in this group of patients, the researchers identified 10 articles meeting inclusion criteria, from which they extracted data.

Read more about complications associated with SMA

The meta-analysis showed there was no difference in respiratory function before surgery and at the last follow-up. Of the 10 studies, 4 showed similar results, while 5 reported a decrease in lung function following the operation. Only 1 study showed an improvement in pulmonary function. 

“Ideally prospective, frequent temporal and long-term follow-up, preferably multi-center studies with larger sample sizes are needed to evaluate the role of spinal surgery in different SMA types,” the authors of the study wrote.

Scoliosis is a common complication of SMA that can compromise a patient’s ability to breathe. 

Some doctors may suggest bracing to delay the development of scoliosis in SMA, however, the data are controversial in terms of the effectiveness of this approach. Surgery may also be indicated in some cases, but it is associated with a number of complications.


Angeli M, Alpantaki K, Pandis N, Koutserimpas C, Hadjipavlou A. The effect of scoliosis surgery on pulmonary function in spinal muscular atrophy patients: review of the literature and a meta-analysis. Eur Spine J. Published online June 4, 2022. doi:10.1007/s00586-022-07182-2