What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an abnormal curving of the spine. While all spines have a natural curve, patients with scoliosis have excessive spinal curving. Usually, scoliosis develops during the growth spurt before puberty, between the ages of 9 and 15.
Types of Scoliosis
- Congenital scoliosis: Caused by abnormal development of vertebra, present at birth. Sometimes the vertebra fails to form normally, leading to abnormal curvature of the spine.
- Idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most well-known type that presents most often in adolescence (age 10-17). Both girls and boys can develop idiopathic scoliosis and are passed down in families.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis: These are the result of underlying neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy, myelodysplasia, muscular dystrophy, polio, spinal cord injury, etc.
- Degenerative scoliosis: This is the adult-onset form that occurs secondary to the development of degeneration of the spine and its joints. This is most common after the age of 50.
Patients with mild cases of scoliosis have no symptoms apart from the irregularity of their appearance. If the curve of the spine worsens, however, and the spine twists, patients may experience:
- Low back pain
- Extreme fatigue after sitting or standing
- Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)
If symptoms of scoliosis worsen, treatment may become necessary.
How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?
In addition to a physical examination of the back, shoulders, waist and hips, patients suspected of having scoliosis typically undergo neurological examinations to evaluate muscle strength, reflexes, and areas of numbness. Imaging tests are also administered to determine the severity of the problem and to rule out other possible reasons for the curvature of the spine, such as tumors. Diagnostic imaging tests may include CT, MRI and bone scans. A spinal curve measurement, using a device called a scoliometer, will also be taken.
Treatment options for scoliosis are based on age, gender and the location and severity of the curve. The curvature is monitored closely and, if necessary, managed with bracing on children. This does not cure scoliosis, but it may impede the further progression of the curve.
Once patients have reached maturity, and their bones have stopped growing, as assessed by the onset of puberty and tests to assess bone growth, there is very little risk of worsening scoliosis.
Adults may benefit from scoliosis management such as physical therapy or medication. If a physical function is significantly limited, surgery may be considered. It is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor in deciding which treatment, if any, may be best for you.
When is Scoliosis Surgery Needed?
More serious cases of scoliosis may require surgical intervention. In most cases, the surgery performed to treat this condition is spinal fusion, during which two or more vertebrae are connected with bone grafts or artificial materials.
During spinal fusion procedures, metal rods are installed to stabilize the area until the bones grow together. Although such surgery is normally done after the patient has finished growing, when the scoliosis is progressing at a dangerous rate, an adjustable rod may be inserted which can be lengthened every 6 months to accommodate the child’s growth.
Most patients with scoliosis, even if it becomes severe, are able to be successfully treated and to lead normal, productive lives.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are experiencing scoliosis symptoms call 817-916-4685 to schedule a consultation with one of our scoliosis specialists. DFW Center for Spinal Disorders serves Fort Worth, Dallas, Irving, Flower Mound, Arlington and surrounding areas in Texas.