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Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Although scoliosis is usually diagnosed in children and teens, it is becoming more common as our population ages and people experience degenerative spinal conditions. Women, in particular, are more likely to develop osteoporosis as they get older, and that can put them at risk for degenerative scoliosis. At the Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center, our spinal experts provide comprehensive evaluation and sophisticated treatment for adults and adolescents with scoliosis.
There are four types of scoliosis:
- Congenital scoliosis. Present at birth.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis. Develops because of an underlying neurological condition such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida or polio.
- Degenerative scoliosis. Results from injury, previous back surgery, osteoporosis or general degeneration.
- Idiopathic scoliosis. Has no known cause and usually develops during adolescence.
If you have a family member with scoliosis, you are at greater risk for developing the condition yourself. Females are also more likely to have scoliosis than males, and it is most common in adolescent girls. About 10 percent of United States women have scoliosis, while only about five percent of United States men have the condition.
Most teens do not experience any symptoms, but their shoulders and hips may appear uneven because of the curvature. The most common symptom of scoliosis in adults is back pain and imbalance. Some people may also experience fatigue.
To confirm scoliosis, IU Health Neuroscience Center doctors use a physical exam, family history and X-rays of the spine to measure how much the spine curves. Doctors may also conduct magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) studies.
Many people with scoliosis can be treated with physical therapy or bracing, and some people require only careful monitoring by their doctor. At the IU Health Neuroscience Center, doctors determine treatment on a case-by-case basis.
- In cases where the curve is less than 20 degrees, the person will likely be checked periodically by a doctor to see if the curve progresses.
- In cases where the curve is 20 to 40 degrees, the person will likely be watched closely and bracing may be considered.
- In cases where the curve is greater than 50 degrees, surgery may be recommended if the condition worsens or does not respond to treatment.
During surgery, neurosurgeons fuse two segments of the spine and insert a metal rod to help the spine stay straight; they fix with screws and rods to maintain alignment. The IU Health Neuroscience Center has one of the most sophisticated scoliosis surgery programs in Indiana, drawing people from across the Midwest who require highly skilled spine surgeons for their procedures.
Our surgeons use intraoperative CT images, or scans taken during the procedure, to help them place the fixation, or metal rod and all instruments, in correct position. This ensures a safe and effective surgery and reduces the need for additional treatments. In addition, the IU Health Neuroscience Center features a sophisticated neuromonitoring program, lowering the risk of spinal cord damage and protecting patients throughout surgery.