Question: What is scoliosis and how do you treat it?
Scoliosis is a condition causing side-to-side curves in the spine.
It usually develops in children who have not reached puberty, and we see it more often in girls.
Left untreated, it can lead to chronic and debilitating deformity, severe back pain and difficulty breathing.
When children are referred to me, I perform a clinical exam and order X-rays to determine the extent of curvature.
Generally, if the curvature is less than 25 degrees from normal, we do nothing more than continue to monitor the patient to make sure it doesn’t get worse.
Fortunately, for most patients the condition remains stable and we do not need to take any other action.
If the curvature advances to more than 25 degrees, I usually recommend bracing to prevent it from worsening.
Modern braces are smaller, lighter and more easily fitted under clothing than the more bulky braces used just a few years ago.
In about 5 percent of children with scoliosis, the curvature continues to worsen to more than 40 degrees.
With the latest surgical techniques, we can often successfully repair such a curvature down to the low teens or even single digits.
That is far better than we could do just 20 years ago.
In addition, we can now get children back on their feet in a few days, back to school in two to three weeks, and back to using a treadmill or exercise bike in two to three months.
This is much faster than we could accomplish in recent decades.
Scoliosis screening programs help detect this condition earlier, when we can treat it much easier.
Marshfield Clinic's orthopaedic surgeons provide care in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location.