Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. While most people's spine naturally curves slightly, people with scoliosis have a spine that curves too much so that the spine bends from side to side in an unnatural "C" or "S" shape. Scoliosis usually appears during preadolescence or adolescence, and is more likely in girls than boys. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown, but it is sometimes hereditary and at other times it is caused by degeneration of the spinal discs, as in arthritis or osteoporosis. While most people with scoliosis do not have symptoms, some may have backaches, may feel tired after sitting or standing for a long time, or may have problems related to uneven hips or shoulders.
The goal of scoliosis treatment is to stop the progression of the curve and prevent deformity. Specific treatment options depend on the cause of scoliosis, where the curve is in the spine, how big the curve is, and if the patient's body is still growing. There are three basic approaches to scoliosis treatment:
Observation and repeated examinations. This approach may be taken when the patient has a mild scoliosis (a curve of 25% or less) to see if the patient's spine is continuing to curve.
Bracing. A brace may be recommended in young patients who have moderate scoliosis (a curve of more than 25%) but whose bodies are still growing.
Surgery. Surgical scoliosis treatment, including discectomy and spinal fusion, may be recommended for patients who are still growing but whose curvature is severe (a curve of more than 45%) and bracing has not been successful in slowing the progression of the curve.
Patients who are considering scoliosis treatment can find comprehensive care at the Orthopaedic Spine Service or the Department of Neurosurgery's Spine Surgery Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Scoliosis treatment and other services at Brigham and Women's Hospital
The Orthopaedic Spine Service and the Department of Neurosurgery's Spine Surgery Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital provide a wide array of medical and surgical treatment for patients with spine disorders, including scoliosis treatment. Our spine team includes spine surgeons, spine physiatrists and pain management specialists who accurately diagnose patients and provide a complete range of surgical and non-surgical treatment options. We also provide comprehensive treatment for patients whose diseases cause spinal instability, spinal cord compression, curvatures and bony disruptions, including rheumatoid arthritis treatment and osteoporosis treatment.
Our spine specialists at Brigham and Women's Hospital provide innovative treatment across the full range of spinal problems. Minimally invasive surgical techniques, while not possible for all spine conditions, may be an option for many patients, even those who need scoliosis treatment. Our spine surgeons are expert at performing minimally invasive spine surgery, which uses smaller incisions and results in lower risk of infection, less blood loss and faster recovery times. We also offer minimally invasive procedures for a wide range of orthopaedic conditions, including cartilage repair and ACL reconstruction surgery.