Scoliosis & Spinal Deformity

Last updated date: 10-Jul-2023

Originally Written in English

Scoliosis & Spinal Deformity


A spinal deformity is a misaligned or curved bony vertebral column. Adult scoliosis and kyphosis can be caused by aging of the spine or consequences from previous procedures. When the facet joints and discs degrade over time, they are no longer able to sustain the spine's natural posture. Pain is caused by strained joints and pinched nerves, not by the incorrect curvature. Medication, physical therapy, injections, and surgery are all options for treatment.


What is Spinal Deformity?

Spinal alignment and curvature can be changed in a variety of ways. They can be caused by a congenital condition, a child's development, age, accident, or previous spine surgery. Degenerative scoliosis is the most frequent kind of spine deformity in adults.


Anatomy of the Spine

The spine is a column of 24 movable bones known as vertebrae that are held together by ligaments. The bones are separated by discs, which function as shock absorbers and provide flexibility to the spine. Each vertebra contains three joints: a big disc in the front and two facet joints in the rear. This robust tripod construction connects and aligns the bones one on top of the other while allowing our spine to flex and twist.

The spine is entirely straight when viewed from the front, yet it exhibits three bends when viewed from the side. This curve cushions the stress of footfall and naturally puts our head over the pelvis and hip. The typical spine arches slightly inward toward the mouth at the neck, or cervical level, in a curvature known as lordosis. The spine curls inward (lordosis) at the lumbar level, or lower back, and arches out somewhat at the chest level (kyphosis)

When the spine becomes weak or deformed, the whole body reacts. Muscles strain, lungs work harder, and fundamental actions (such as walking) become difficult. 


What are Risk Factors for Spinal Deformities?

Many instances of scoliosis have no known etiology. Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and achondroplasia, a condition affecting cartilage, or spinal muscular atrophy, a disability affecting voluntary muscle movement, are a few recognized hereditary illnesses that may put someone at risk of developing scoliosis.

Poor posture and fractures caused by osteoporosis or injury are risk factors for kyphosis. Lordosis is also associated with osteoporosis. Obesity and slipped vertebrae may also contribute to the illness.


Examples of Spinal Deformities

Examples of spinal deformities

All spinal abnormalities include issues with the spine's curvature or rotation. Scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis are the most common adult spinal abnormalities.

  • The upper back curves forward in kyphosis. The condition might cause a hump to emerge.
  • Lordosis is often referred to as swayback. This is a lower back malformation in which the curvature is inside rather than outward.
  • Scoliosis is a frontal malformation in which the spine slopes to the left or right when viewed straight on. This curving normally ceases when the skeleton stops developing, although in maturity, the curvature can continue progress somewhat, frequently due to disk degeneration.




Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that can affect people of any age. Scoliosis is a side-to-side malformation that occurs in children, adolescents, and adults. Symptoms vary depending on the age of start and the degree of the curvature; cosmetic issues such as sitting imbalance, breathing trouble, or delayed development are frequent in newborns and young children. Adolescents are prone to rib hump, pelvic or shoulder height imbalances. In adults, frequent causes for surgical correction include intractable back pain, sciatica, leg weakness or numbness, and gait problems.

Patients usually have spinal deformity or, most commonly, chest wall and back asymmetry. The most visible expression of spinal curvature is posterior chest wall prominence, which can be seen by the patient, their parents, or through school or physician screening programs. Adolescent females with more severe scoliosis may detect a change in their breast sizes. Shoulder asymmetry and total posture imbalance in the coronal plane are two more possible body traits.

Back discomfort is not uncommon, even if it is not the primary complaint. One-quarter of individuals with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) complain of back discomfort. Idiopathic scoliosis patients may have back discomfort and, more especially, posterior chest wall pain on the side of the rib prominence. Lower back discomfort is prevalent in adolescents, whether they have scoliosis or not.

Back pain without damage that is severe and unrelenting is cause for worry and should be addressed with, at the very least, a comprehensive examination and radiographs since a more specific diagnosis may exist. Acute back discomfort with a fever, for example, should be checked for spinal infections. Back discomfort in one place that worsens at night and improves dramatically with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines may be symptomatic of a spinal tumor such as an osteoid osteoma.

With any spinal disorder, the doctor must keep an eye out for neurological issues. A thorough neurological history should include questions about weakness, sensory changes, balance, gait, and coordination issues, as well as bowel and bladder issues including incontinence. Significant changes in these parameters may indicate intraspinal disease such as syringomyelia (central spinal cord dilatation), tethered cord, or malignancy.

The probability of curve progression in idiopathic scoliosis, and hence its treatment and prognosis, is determined by the amount of spinal growth that remains. Simple height measurements are the most reliable means of measuring growth. As a result, the main physician frequently has this information from their yearly checkups. It is also crucial to consider other indicators of growth and maturity, such as puberty, the commencement of menarche, and breast development.

This disorder has a hereditary component, with siblings (seven times more commonly) and offspring (three times more frequently) of scoliosis sufferers having a greater frequency. Adults suffering from idiopathic scoliosis should be aware that their children should be thoroughly checked.


Types of Scoliosis

Types of Scoliosis

Congenital scoliosis is caused by skeletal anomalies of the spine at birth. These abnormalities, which can occur at numerous levels, are caused by a failure of formation or a failure of segmentation (or both) during vertebral development. Because these spinal abnormalities occur in utero, they are frequently seen on fetal ultrasonography. Organ systems that develop at the same gestational stage (fifth to sixth week) may also show abnormalities in up to 60% of instances.

As a result, it is critical to discover related abnormalities by a complete evaluation of the neurological, cardiovascular, and genitourinary systems, which includes a thorough neurological and cardiac physical examination, an abdomen ultrasound, and an echocardiography. Treatment is determined on the patient's age, the advancement of the curve, and the location and kind of abnormality. Surgical treatment options include in situ fusion and excision with deformity correction.

Scoliosis has been linked to neurological disorders, muscle anomalies, and worldwide diseases. In addition to scoliosis, this broad list of diagnoses would often include other indications, symptoms, and physical manifestations. These various diagnoses are usually treated in tertiary care centers that have unique competence in managing patients with severe multisystem diseases. The caregiver who treats these individuals should be conversant with the illnesses' nonspinal symptoms.

Idiopathic scoliosis is, in some ways, an exclusion diagnosis. Idiopathic scoliosis, on the other hand, is by far the most prevalent kind of spinal deformity, with a frequency of one to three per 100 (curves higher than ten degrees) in an equal percentage of boys and girls. Meanwhile, the prevalence of curves higher than 30° is one to three per 1000, with a boy-to-girl ratio of 1:8.

Infantile idiopathic scoliosis occurs in individuals aged zero to three years (0.5 percent of idiopathic scoliosis), adolescent idiopathic scoliosis occurs in patients aged four to ten years (10.5 % of idiopathic scoliosis), and AIS occurs in children older than ten years (89 % of idiopathic scoliosis)

Infantile curves can be related with neuroaxial abnormalities, plagiocephaly, hip dysplasia, congenital heart disease, and mental retardation, and they generally (90 percent of the time) resolve on their own. Juvenile scoliosis, on the other hand, is frequently progressive and has the potential for significant trunk deformity and eventual cardiac or pulmonary impairment due to continuing development. Curves that approach 30° are virtually often progressive if left untreated.



Diagnosis of scoliosis

A comprehensive history and physical examination are required. To rule out alternative etiologies of scoliosis, the developmental history should be carefully examined. Questions about skeletal maturity, such as the age of menarche and the assessment of Risser classification, must also be addressed. In general, most teenage patients with idiopathic scoliosis will not have severe back discomfort as a result of the curvature. Athletes, cheerleaders, and generally healthy youngsters are among those who are particularly active.

The physical exam must include a neurologic examination as well as an assessment of the shape, form, and flexibility of the curve. Patient privacy and sensitivity are critical considerations in this age population while providing adequate spinal curve measurement. Photographic recording of the patient standing erect and bending over is essential for tracking progression and the operation result. Spinal curvature is not limited to deformities of the spine. Rib prominence, waistline, and shoulder height should be recorded as well.

  • Imaging 

A screening evaluation is often conducted by a school organization, a sports coach, or a physician. X-ray imaging is part of a proper formal examination. Standing coronal x-rays, sagittal x-rays, and left and right bending x-rays are required for patients. The iliac crest on the coronal x-ray platform is typically used to compute Risser classification. A CT scan and MRI imaging are not recommended for typical AIS patients, according to consensus.

Certain intraoperative imaging guiding procedures, on the other hand, need either preoperative or intraoperative CT imaging. This is a surgical and technological issue. Pre-operative candidates are subjected to a normal laboratory workup that includes a CBC, BMP, INR/PTT, urinalysis, and a urine pregnancy test for all females.

Other tests should include pulmonary function tests.


Scoliosis Management

Scoliosis Management

Historically, persons with curves smaller than 10 degrees did not fit the criteria for AIS diagnosis. Furthermore, the United States Preventative Services Task Force recently questioned whether school screenings improve patient-centered health outcomes.

Those with curves of 10 to 25 degrees are generally monitored for surveillance using serial x-rays. This is commonly done every three, six, or twelve months.

Bracing is recommended for curves more than 25 degrees but less than 40 to 45 degrees. Despite the fact that braces are commonly prescribed, these unpleasant devices have low compliance rates and their overall efficacy remains in doubt. There have been concerns voiced regarding every style of scoliosis brace.

Operative candidates have curves greater than 40 to 45 degrees and are skeletally immature. Surgical fusion is the mainstay of operational therapy. Historically, this might be accomplished either anterior or posterior fusion or with a combination anterior-posterior technique. The most often used procedure is posterior fusion with pedicle screws and bilateral rod implantation. The selection of operational levels is a sophisticated decision process that takes into account the position of the coronal deformity, regional kyphosis, shoulder height, L4 tilt, and lumbar alignment. Furthermore, for advanced surgical planning, a ratio comparison of the main thoracic curve Cobb angle and the thoracolumbar curve Cobb angle, as well as the apical vertical translation and apical vertebral rotation, must be addressed.

New non-fusion treatments, such as tethering procedures, are also gaining popularity. Scoliosis surgery is a significant procedure, and the literature is replete with catastrophic consequences that are as devastating as the illness itself.

Physical therapy, electrical stimulation, diet, and spinal manipulation have all been shown to be ineffective in the treatment of scoliosis.

These are broad strokes, and real patient care surgical decisions must take into consideration patient-specific aspects such as skeletal maturity, deformity development, patient socioeconomic circumstances, and surgeon experience. 


Scoliosis Surgery

Scoliosis Surgery

For curves more than 45° in immature children and curves greater than 50° in adult patients, surgical treatment of idiopathic scoliosis is considered. The decision-making process also considers trunk deformities and balance. As previously stated, the long-term effects of an untreated patient with 55° of scoliosis at maturity remain unknown. As a result, the patient must be dissatisfied with the curvature of their back in order to undertake a severe and possibly risky surgical correction of scoliotic deformity less than 60°.

Surgery is often performed during adolescence, although improved procedures allow for effective repair into early adulthood. Surgical therapy aims to halt progression while also improving spinal alignment and balance. While preserving sagittal alignment, the hips and shoulders should be level, and the head should be above the sacrum. The spine is stabilized with a mixture of rods, hooks, screws, and wires, and it is united with bone graft - either from the patient, a cadaver, or artificially.

Depending on the curve type, age, and surgeon choice, strategies include fusion with and without instrumentation from the anterior, posterior, or both. Correction and fusion procedures evolve rapidly; long-term results for the most recent approaches have yet to be realized. However, during a 20-year span, earlier technologies had positive outcomes.



Scoliosis & Spinal Deformity Prognosis

Patients with teenage idiopathic scoliosis who remain untreated into adulthood can experience a rate of advancement of 0.5 to 1 degree per year after they have attained a 50-degree coronal angle. Furthermore, in general, curves in adults are significantly stiffer and more inflexible than those in adolescence, necessitating more forceful and intrusive surgical methods.

Long-term studies show that people with scoliosis have a greater prevalence of arthritis and a bad opinion of their body image, regardless of therapy. Furthermore, if the surgical repair includes chest wall invasion, discomfort and impaired lung function may occur.



Deformity progression is one of the complications of untreated scoliosis. Back discomfort, lumbar radiculopathy, aesthetic issues, nerve damage, and even cardiac and pulmonary limitation might result from this. Untreated individuals with a coronal plane curve of greater than 80 degrees may have increasing shortness of breath.

Surgical problems are less common than in adult spinal deformity surgery, although they do occur. One national data collection estimated 0.9 percent post-surgical brain damage, 2.8 percent respiratory problems, 0.8 percent cardiac issues, 0.5 percent infection, and 2.7 percent gastrointestinal complications. Delayed infections in hardware are also rather prevalent.

Surgeon competence and volume of operation are other major determinants in surgical result and cost.



To maintain the body upright and the head level, the spine is made up of an exquisite stack of vertebrae and disks that seem straight from the front and curved from the side. A spinal deformity is an abnormal curve in your spine, such as scoliosis or kyphosis. It can impair your spine's capacity to function, resulting in pain, neurological issues, and mobility issues. Spinal abnormalities can arise from a variety of causes, including congenital anomalies, age and degeneration, and trauma.

While scoliosis is associated with a variety of diseases, the great majority of individuals seen are idiopathic. To rule out nonidiopathic causes of scoliosis, a comprehensive history, physical examination, and radiographs should be performed. Idiopathic scoliosis therapy is individualized based on age, curve magnitude, and risk of advancement, and involves observation, orthotic care, and surgical correction.