Scoliosis is a condition characterized by the abnormal curvature of the back. Complications of this condition include nerve or spinal cord compression (with possible pain, numbness, tingling, weakness resulting), bone degeneration and abnormal cerebrospinal fluid circulation around the spinal cord. In extreme cases of severe abnormal curves, the organs in the thoracic (chest) cavity, heart and lungs, may have compromised function. Scoliosis is divided into four major categories: infantile idiopathic scoliosis, juvenile idiopathic scoliosis, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, and acquired/degenerative scoliosis.
"Infantile idiopathic scoliosis" refers to scoliosis presenting in patients less than three years of age and accounts for 2-3% of all cases. Most of these cases are boys, and presenting with a thoracic curvature to the left. 70 to 90% of these cases resolve spontaneously without medical intervention. If treatment is required it is often in the form of casting followed by traction and surgical fusion.
"Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis" refers to scoliosis presenting in patients between the ages of four to nine and accounts for about 15% of all cases. Most of these cases present in girls, and is six times more likely to be a right curvature. Natural resolution of scoliosis occurs in 20% of patients.
"Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis" refers to scoliosis presenting in patients between the ages of 10 to 20 and accounts for about 85% of all cases. Like juvenile idiopathic scoliosis, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis presents mostly in girls and is 8 times more likely to be curvature to the right. Surgical correction is usually required for problematic cases, as natural resolution is rare.
"Acquired Scoliosis"/"Degenerative Scoliosis" refers to the abnormal curves typically presenting in adults, men and women. It is commonly related to wear-and-tear changs of the body over a life time of experiences, and/or can be related to trauma with fractures of the spine. Some cases will require surgery, especially those with rapid change in the curve or compression of neurologic structures (nerve roots or spinal cord).
Kevin White, Karin Swartz, MD
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