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 tests to health-care professionals use to diagnose scoliosis?

If someone thinks he or she has scoliosis, see a doctor for an examination. The doctor will ask questions, including if there is any family history of scoliosis, or if there has been any pain, weakness, or other medical problems.

The physical examination involves looking at the curve of the spine from the sides, front, and back. The person will be asked to undress from the waist up to better see any abnormal curves. The person will then bend over trying to touch their toes. This position can make the curve more obvious. The doctor will also look at the symmetry of the body to see if the hips and shoulders are at the same height. Any skin changes will also be identified that can suggest scoliosis due to a birth defect. A doctor may check your range of motion, muscle strength, and reflexes.

The more growth that a person has remaining increases the chances of scoliosis getting worse. As a result, the doctor may measure the person's height and weight for comparison with future visits. Other clues to the amount of growth remaining are signs of puberty such as the presence of breasts or pubic hair and whether menstrual periods have begun in girls.

If the doctor believes a patient has scoliosis, the patient could either be asked to return for an additional examination in several months to see if there is any change or the doctor may obtain X-rays of the back. If X-rays are obtained, the doctor can make measurements from them to determine how large of a curve is present. This can help decide what treatment, if any, is necessary. Measurements from future visits can be compared to see if the curve is getting worse.

It is important that the doctor knows how much further growth the patient has left. Additional X-rays of the hand, wrist, or pelvis can help determine how much more the patient will grow. If a doctor finds any changes in the function of the nerves, he or she may order other imaging tests of your spine, including an MRI or CT scan to look more closely at the bones and nerves of the spine.

What types of specialists treat scoliosis?

Usually, a person's primary-care or pediatric physician notices the problem and consults an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon who specializes in spine surgery. In addition, a rehabilitation specialist and/or a physical therapist may be consulted. Some patients may need a neurologist or an occupational therapist as part of the treatment team. 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. "Amanda-Scoliosis" by University of Utah Hospital - Radiology Department - X-Ray Image.

3. "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

4. Getty Images

5. Getty Images

6. "Surgical result after ventral fusion of scoliosis" by Weiss HR, Goodall D - Weiss HR, Goodall D. Scoliosis. 2008 Aug 5;3:9. PMID: 18681956. doi:10.1186/1748-7161-3-9

7. iStock

8. N/A
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