Monday, April 20, 2015

Lets Learn About: Scoliosis

Interesting fact of the day.... 10-33% of individuals living with Neurofibromatosis have some kind of spinal deformity! Scoliosis is one of these spinal manifestations, and is one of the most common "deformities" seen in individuals with NF. Scoliosis is a lateral (toward the side or sideways) curve in the spine, which is normally supposed to be straight. Typically, scoliosis is diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 16, and is most commonly seen in females across the globe.

Types of scoliosis:

The most common type of scoliosis is called "idiopathic scoliosis", which means that there is no identifiable cause for the spine to curve (this is the kind of scoliosis seen in NF). There are many theories for potential causes, such as hormonal imbalances, but no research has found a conclusive answer as to what the culprit is! However, there are some other types of scoliosis that have identifiable causes, so lets take a look at them!

1. Congenital scoliosis -- is caused by a bone abnormality that is present at birth, which results from part of the spine not forming properly (this usually occurs within the first six weeks of fetal development). It's common for children with congenital scoliosis to also have kidney and bladder problems, which is due to the way the spine has formed

2. Neuromuscular scoliosis -- is a result of abnormal muscles or nerves, and is frequently seen in individuals with conditions such as spina bifida (when the spinal column fails to close properly) or cerebral palsy (a disorder of movement, muscle tone, and/or posture).

3. Degenerative scoliosis -- is a result from trauma (whether it was injury or illness), bone collapse, previous back surgery or osteoperosis

Signs and Symptoms include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade sticks out more than the other (called "winging") 
  • Uneven waist or one hip that is higher than the other 


There are multiple diagnostic tests that can be done to diagnose scoliosis. Many of the physical symptoms listed above are used as diagnostic criteria in the doctors office. Included in the physical exam, the physician will likely perform a neurological check to assess for thing like muscle weakness, numbness, and abnormal reflexes which all may or may not be present in someone with scoliosis. X-rays are the most common imaging test used, and is typically used to confirm diagnostic findings in the physical exam.


Treatment for scoliosis completely depends on the severity of the curve. Most children with scoliosis have very mild curves, and therefore won't need treatment to correct their scoliosis. Typically, children who have mild curves need to be seen by a physician every six months for a checkup to see if there have been any changes in the curvature of the spine. Guidelines for treatment also depend on things like severity of the curve, location of the curve and maturity of the patient.

Two of the most common treatments for scoliosis include:
1. Braces
2. Spinal fusion surgery

Braces are typically used if a child has moderate scoliosis and is still growing. Wearing a brace will not cure scoliosis or reverse the curve, but it will prevent from the curve from becoming worse. The most common type of brace used is an "underarm" or "low-profile brace". This brace is almost invisible under clothing, and it sits under the arms and extends around the rib cage, lower back and hips.

Spinal surgery is not usually done unless a child's scoliosis is greater than 40 degrees. In spinal surgery, two or more bones in the spine are fused together, so they cannot move independently. Metal rods, hooks, screws, or wires typically hold the fused part of the spine straight to help the new bones fuse together. Surgery is usually preferred when the the child has stopped growing, but special rods that can be lengthened can be inserted in children who are still growing.

There you have it folks, I hope you all learned something new!


References used: 


  1. Congenital scoliosis , Neuromuscular scoliosis, Degenerative scoliosis are 3 types of scoliois. Back pain is the most harmful for a person. back brace can reduce it sometimes.

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