One form of scoliosis, known as Scungitel (see Scungitelitis), manifests as a persistent cough, and is caused by the tightening of the nerve attachments to the diaphram resultant from the curvature of the spinal column.
In April 2007, researchers at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children identified the first gene associated with idiopathic scoliosis, CHD7. The medical breakthrough was the result of a 10-year study and is outlined in the May 2007 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.
During the exam, the patient is asked to bend forward (Adam's Bend Test). If a hump is noted, then scoliosis is a possibility and the patient should be sent for an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis. The patient's gait is assessed, and there is an exam for signs of other abnormalities (e.g., Spina bifida as evidenced by a dimple, hairy patch, lipoma, or hemangioma). A thorough neurological examination is also performed.
It is usual when scoliosis is suspected to arrange for weight-bearing full-spine AP/coronal (front-back view) and lateral/sagittal (side view) xrays to be taken, to assess both the scoliosis curves and also the kyphosis and lordosis, as these can also be affected in individuals with scoliosis. Full-length standing spine X rays are the standard method for evaluating the severity and progression of the scoliosis, and whether it is congenital or idiopathic in nature. In growing individuals, serial radiographs are obtained at 3-12 month intervals to follow curve progression. In some instances, MRI investigation is warranted.
The standard method for assessing the curvature quantitatively is measurement of the Cobb angle, which is the angle between two lines, drawn perpendicular to the upper endplate of the uppermost vertebrae involved and the lower endplate of the lowest vertebrae involved. For patients who have two curves, Cobb angles are followed for both curves. In some patients, lateral bending xrays are obtained to assess the flexibility of the curves or the primary and compensatory curves.Mass-screening for scoliosis using posture photos It has been suggested that entire populations be examined, for early detection. For example, in the 1940s, American psychologist William Sheldon proposed mandatory physical examinations that included nude photographs of each person being examined. One purpose of these photographs was the detection of rickets, scoliosis, and lordosis. His approach was implemented at a number of ivy league schools in which all freshmen were examined (Ivy League nude posture photos). A similar program was implemented in Boston's prison system.
The conventional options are, in order:
Bracing is only done when the patient has bone growth remaining, and is generally implemented in order to hold the curve and prevent it from progressing to the point where surgery is necessary. Bracing involves fitting the patient with a device that covers the torso and in some cases it extends to the neck. The most commonly used brace is a TLSO, a corset-like appliance that fits from armpits to hips and is custom-made from plastic. It is usually worn 22-23 hours a day and applies pressure on the curves in the spine. The effectiveness of the brace depends a lot on how much the person wears it. Typically braces are only used for idiopathic curves that are not grave enough to warrant surgery, but they may also be used to prevent the progression of more severe curves in young children, in order to buy the child time to grow before performing surgery which would prevent further growth in the part of the spine affected. Bracing may cause emotional and physical discomfort. Physical activity may be more difficult because the brace presses against the stomach making it very difficult to breathe. Children may lose weight from the brace, due to inceased pressure on the abdominal area.
In infantile, and sometimes juvenile scoliosis, a plaster jacket applied early may be used instead of a brace. It has been proven possible to permanently correct cases of infantile idiopathic scoliosis by applying a series of plaster casts (EDF-elongation, derotation, flexion) applied on a specialized frame under corrective traction, which helps to "mould" the infant's soft bones and work with their infantile growth spurts. This method was pioneered by UK scoliosis specialist Min Mehta.
Chiropractic and physical therapy have some degree of anecdotal success in treating scoliosis that is primarily neuromuscular in nature, however non-surgical approaches will not address severe bone deformities associated with many cases of scoliosis. Chiropractors and Physical Therapists utilize joint mobilization techniques and therapeutic exercise to increase a scoliosis patient's flexibility and strength, theorizing that this better enables the brace to influence the curvature of the spine. Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is another therapeutic modality commonly utilized by chiropractors and physical therapists to reduce muscle spasms and strengthen atrophied muscles.
There is limited published scientific research to evaluate the efficiency of treatment programs that include a combination of bracing along with physical therapy. While much debate remains in the scientific community about whether or not chiropractic and physical therapy can influence scoliotic curvature, there may well be palliative benefit from them in scoliosis patients who experience back pain either directly as a result of their deformity or indirectly from wearing an uncomfortable brace for the vast majority of the day.
A non-invasive treatment for idiopathic scoliosis used successfully in Europe since the 1920s . Originally developed in Germany by scoliosis sufferer Katharina Schroth, this method is now taught to scoliosis patients in clinics specifically devoted to Schroth therapy in Germany, Spain, England, and, most recently, the United States. Physical therapists who do not specialize exclusively in Schroth therapy but who have received Schroth certification through the clinics in Spain and Germany offer Schroth therapy throughout Europe, parts of the Middle East, and the United States.
Surgery for scoliosis is usually done by an surgeon who specializes in spine surgery. For various reasons it is usually impossible to completely straighten a scoliotic spine, but in most cases very good corrections are achieved.
Spinal fusion is the most widely performed surgery for scoliosis. In this procedure, bone (either harvested from elsewhere in the body [autograft], or donor bone [allograft]) is grafted to the vertebrae so that when it heals, they will form one solid bone mass and the vertebral column becomes rigid. This prevents worsening of the curve at the expense of spinal movement. This can be performed from the anterior (front) aspect of the spine by entering the thoracic or abdominal cavity, or performed from the back (posterior). A combination of both is used in more severe cases.
Originally, spinal fusions were done without metal implants. A cast was applied after the surgery, usually under traction to pull the curve as straight as possible and then hold it there while fusion took place. Unfortunately, there was a relatively high risk of pseudarthrosis (fusion failure) at one or more levels and significant correction could not always be achieved. In 1962, Paul Harrington introduced a metal spinal system of instrumentation which assisted with straightening the spine, as well as holding it rigid while fusion took place. The original, now obsolete Harrington rod operated on a ratchet system, attached by hooks to the spine at the top and bottom of the curvature that when cranked would distract, or straighten, the curve. A major shortcoming of the Harrington method was that it failed to produce a posture where the skull would be in proper alignment with the pelvis and it didn't address rotational deformity. As a result, unfused parts of the spine would try to compensate for this in the effort to stand up straight. As the person aged, there would be increased wear and tear, early onset arthritis, disc degeneration, muscular stiffness and pain with eventual reliance on painkillers, further surgery, inability to work full-time and disability. "Flatback" became the medical name for a related complication, especially for those who had lumbar scoliosis. Modern spinal systems are attempting to address sagittal imbalance and rotational defects unresolved by the Harrington rod system. They involve a combination of rods, screws, hooks and wires fixing the spine and can apply stronger, safer forces to the spine than the Harrington rod. This technique is known as the Cotrel-Dubousset instrumentation, currently the most common technique for the procedure.
Modern spinal fusions generally have good outcomes with high degrees of correction and low rates of failure and infection. Patients with fused spines and permanent implants tend to have normal lives with unrestricted activities when they are younger, it remains to be seen whether those that have been treated with the newer surgical techniques will develop problems as they age. They are able to participate in recreational athletics, have natural childbirth and are generally satisfied with their treatment. The most notable limitation of spinal fusions is that patients who have undergone surgery for scoliosis are ineligible for military service in the United States.
In cases where scoliosis has caused a significant deformity resulting in a rib hump, it is often possible to perform a surgery called a costoplasty (also called a thorocoplasty) in order to achieve a more pleasing cosmetic result. This procedure may be performed at any time after a fusion surgery, whether as part of the same operation or several years afterwards. It is usually impossible to completely straighten and untwist a scoliotic spine, and it should be noted that the level of cosmetic success will depend on the extent to which the fused spine still rotates out into the ribcage. A rib hump is evidence that there is still some rotational deformity to the spine. Specific weight training techniques can be used to influence this rotational deformity in the unfused parts of the spine. This leads to a marked decrease in pain and to some improvement in organ function depending on the person's particular case and is to be recommended over any cosmetic surgical procedure .