Scoliosis

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What causes scoliosis?

Scoliosis affects about 2% of females and 0.5% of males. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown (known as idiopathic). This type of scoliosis is described based on the age when scoliosis develops, as are other some other types of scoliosis.

  • If the person is less than 3 years old, it is called infantile idiopathic scoliosis.
  • Scoliosis that develops between 3-10 years of age is called juvenile idiopathic scoliosis.
  • People who are over 10 years old (10-18 years old) have adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.

More than 80% of people with scoliosis have idiopathic scoliosis, and the majority of those are adolescent girls; the most common location for scoliosis is in the thoracic spine.

What are the causes of other types of scoliosis?

As stated above, idiopathic scoliosis and its subtypes comprise over 80% of all scoliosis patients. However, there are three other main types of scoliosis:

  • Functional: In this type of scoliosis, the spine is normal, but an abnormal curve develops because of a problem somewhere else in the body. This could be caused by one leg being shorter than the other or by muscle spasms in the back.
  • Neuromuscular: In this type of scoliosis, there is a problem when the bones of the spine are formed. Either the bones of the spine fail to form completely or they fail to separate from each other during fetal development. This type of scoliosis develops in people with other disorders, including birth defects, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or Marfan syndrome (an inherited connective tissue disease). People with these conditions often develop a long C-shaped curve and have weak muscles that are unable to hold them up straight. If the curve is present at birth, it is called congenital. This type of scoliosis is often much more severe and needs more aggressive treatment than other forms of scoliosis.
  • Degenerative: Unlike the other forms of scoliosis that are found in children and teens, degenerative scoliosis occurs in older adults. It is caused by changes in the spine due to arthritis known as spondylosis. Weakening of the normal ligaments and other soft tissues of the spine combined with abnormal bone spurs can lead to an abnormal curvature of the spine. The spine can also be affected by osteoporosis, vertebral compression fractures, and disc degeneration.

There are other potential causes of scoliosis, including spine tumors such as osteoid osteoma. This is a benign tumor that can occur in the spine and cause pain. The pain causes people to lean to the opposite side to reduce the amount of pressure applied to the tumor. This can lead to a spinal deformity.

What are risk factors for scoliosis?

Age is a risk factor as the symptoms often begin between 9-15 years of age. Being a female increases the risk of scoliosis, and females have a higher risk of worsening spine curvature than males. Although many individuals who develop the problem do not have family members with scoliosis, a family history of scoliosis increases the risk of the disease. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 4/27/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Fu, K.M., J.S. Smith, D.W. Polly, C.P. Ames, et al; Scoliosis Research Society Morbidity and Mortality Committee. "Morbidity and Mortality Associated With Spinal Surgery in Children: A Review of the Scoliosis Research Society Morbidity and Mortality Database." J Neurosurg Pediatr 7.1 Jan. 2011: 37-41.

Mehlman, Charles T. "Idiopathic Scoliosis." Medscape.com. Dec. 18, 2014. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1265794-overview>.

Negrini, S., S. Minozzi, J. Bettany-Saltikov, F. Zaina F, et al. "Braces for Idiopathic Scoliosis in Adolescents." Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 35.13 June 1, 2010: 1285-1293.

Phan, P., N. Mezghani, C.E. Aubin, J.A. De Guise, and H. Labelle. "Computer Algorithms and Applications Used to Assist the Evaluation and Treatment of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: A Review of Published Articles 2000-2009." Eur Spine J. Jan 30, 2011.

IMAGES:

1.Getty Images

2.Getty Images

3.Getty Images

4."Surgical result after ventral fusion of scoliosis" by Weiss HR, Goodall D - Weiss HR, Goodall D. Scoliosis. 2008 Aug 5;3:9. PMID: 1868195 doi:10.1186/1748-7161-3-9

5."Amanda-Scoliosis" by University of Utah Hospital - Radiology Department - X-Ray Image.

6.iStock

7."Amanda-Scoliosis" by University of Utah Hospital - Radiology Department - X-Ray Image.

8.iStock

9."Scoliosis patient in cheneau brace correcting from 56 to 27 deg" by Weiss HR - Weiss HR. Scoliosis 2007, 2:19. PMID: 18163917. doi:10.1186/1748-7161-2-19

10.Getty Images

11.Getty Images

12."Amanda-Scoliosis" by University of Utah Hospital - Radiology Department - X-Ray Image.

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