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What is Scoliosis?

What is Scoliosis?

And How is it Treated?

Everyone's spine has curves. These curves produce the normal rounding of the shoulder and the sway of the lower back.

A spine with scoliosis has abnormal curves with a rotational
deformity. This means that the spine turns on its axis like a

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine which may have its onset in
infancy but is most frequently seen in adolescence. It is more
common in females by a 2:1 ratio. However, when curves in excess
of 30 degrees are evaluated, females are more frequently affected
by a ration of approximately 8-10:1.

The cause of the most common form of scoliosis -- idiopathic
scoliosis -- is unknown, but there are certainly hereditary
factors that are present.

Scoliosis causes shoulder, trunk and waistline asymmetry. In mild
forms, the condition may be barely noticed; whereas in severe
forms there is significant disfigurement, back pain and postural
fatigue, and it may be associated with heart failure. Fortunately
the majority of scoliosis cases need only close follow-up to
watch for worsening of the curve. Some cases require more
aggressive treatment which could include surgery (see below).

Orthopedic surgeons are best qualified to evaluate and treat
deforming spinal conditions like scoliosis. However, a good
resource for further information is:

The National Scoliosis Foundation
72 Mt. Auburn St.,
Watertown, Massachusetts 02171
Phone: (617) 926-0397

Non-Operative Treatment

The non-operative treatment of scoliosis involves observing the
deformity with examinations and repeated x-rays. Under certain
circumstances, when spinal growth remains, a brace may be used in
combination with follow-up x-rays. Physical therapy exercises
have not been shown to be effective treatment for scoliosis.

Why Surgery?

Surgical treatment of scoliosis may be indicated for any of the following

1.To prevent further progression of the curve.
2.To control the curve when brace treatment has failed.
3. To improve an undesired cosmetic appearance.
4. For reasons of discomfort or postural fatigue.

Surgical Treatment of Scoliosis:

The most common surgical treatment for scoliosis is a
spine fusion using special stainless steel rods, hooks,
and a bone graft. The rods are attached to the spine with hooks
and the curved portion of the spine is carefully straightened.
Then, small strips of bone graft are placed over the spine to
fuse it in a straight position. As the bone graft heals over the
next several months, the spine becomes solid and will not curve
again. But the part of the spine that has not been fused will
still be flexible, and allow nearly normal overall movement.


The material contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice or instruction. Consult your health care professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition.