Scoliosis is one of the many spinal conditions that a neurosurgeon may be on tap to treat for patients. Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Everyone’s spine has a slight curve to it; however, scoliosis is when the spine begins to curve too much and begins to affect the function of the spine. The cause of scoliosis is unknown and it can affect all ages. The condition is typically categorized by the patient’s age:
- Infantile scoliosis: those affected between the ages of 3 or younger
- Juvenile scoliosis: those affected between the ages of 4 and 10
- Adolescent scoliosis: those affected between the ages of 11 and 18
Despite the cause of scoliosis being unknown, it typically affects females more than males. The curving also often worsens during growth spurts, which is why it is often diagnosed in children. Or if it is congenital scoliosis, the curvature occurs at birth when a baby’s ribs or spine bones do not develop properly or normally. There is also neuromuscular scoliosis which is usually triggered by a nervous system condition such as cerebral palsy, polio or muscular dystrophy.
The symptoms of scoliosis usually manifest as neck, shoulder or back pain; uneven hips or shoulders; a visible curvature in the spine; and numbness. A primary care physician will check and can diagnose scoliosis during regular check-ups. If there are symptoms, a doctor may used an X-ray to determine if the spine is abnormally curved or if the curvature is worsening. Other tests used include spine curve measurement, CT scans or MRIs.
Depending on the severity of the scoliosis, a doctor may prescribe treatments including back braces; physical therapy or spinal surgery. If spinal surgery is necessary, a neurosurgeon will step in. Spinal fusion is a common surgery technique to treat severe cases of scoliosis. A spinal fusion is surgery that permanently connects two or more vertebra in the spine, eliminating motion between them. In this case, the spinal fusion is used to prevent more curving of the spine.
While scoliosis still affects an estimated 9 million people in the US, there are many treatment options that allow them to grow and live healthy and pain-free lives.