Over the course of the last several decades notable advances have been made in medical science. Because of these advances, it is now possible for physicians to identify medical conditions and alleviate them before they become a chronic health concern for the patient. Such is the case with scoliosis. Defined as an abnormal curve of the spine1, scoliosis can have a significant impact on the individual's health and quality of life. As such, early diagnosis and treatment of this disease are critical for improving health outcomes for the patient.With the realization that scoliosis poses such a unique challenge and threat to the individual and his or her quality of life, there is a clear impetus to examine this condition such that a more integral understanding of scoliosis can be garnered. To this end, this investigation provides a broad overview of scoliosis including its development, health complications and treatment modalities for the patient. Through a careful consideration of the current medical literature on this condition, it should be possible to provide a complete understanding of this disease and the challenge that it presents for both patients and physicians.
[...] Unfortunately, because scoliosis does not represent a significant threat to the vital function of the human body, efforts to develop further understanding of this condition have been limited in recent years. Arguably, scoliosis is a complex condition that cannot, at the present time, be attributed to one specific root cause. Current research on this condition clearly suggests that there may be a host of underlying factors that all contribute to the onset of this condition. As such, developing a definitive test to detect the presence of scoliosis may be an elusive goal for many years to come. [...]
[...] The curvature of the spine from scoliosis may develop as a single curve (shaped like the letter or as two curves (shaped like the letter S).2 Although public schools typically check for scoliosis in the fifth or sixth grade, pediatricians can screen for this condition earlier. If a clear judgment about the growth of the spine cannot be made, x-rays can provide a definitive answer about the presence of this condition.1 Figure below provides a physical representation of scoliosis. Figure A Scoliotic Spine Compared to a Normal Spine Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/1114.htm Causes Idiopathic Reviewing what has been written about the causes of scoliosis, it becomes evident that, at the present time, researchers have not identified the root cause for the development of scoliosis in most individuals. [...]
[...] In these cases, x-rays can be used along with scoliometer measurements, device for measuring the curvature of the spine” and an MRI of the spine.5 Although the basic methods for diagnosis are rudimentary, increased awareness about the condition has allowed for earlier intervention and better treatment of this condition.5 Reviewing the basic methods used for diagnosis one author observes; Scoliosis can be identified by the Adam's forward bend test during physical examination. Severe pain, a left thoracic curve or an abnormal neurologic examination are red flags that point to a secondary cause for spinal deformity.”3 This author goes on to note that while physical screening programs have been widely used in schools to identify scoliosis, this process has ultimately led to over-referral of patients for further testing.3 In many cases the specific context of scoliosis can be difficult for the untrained observer to see. [...]
[...] Further individuals entering adolescence are more likely to develop idiopathic scoliosis because of rapid changes in the body's growth and development.5 While the genetic component of scoliosis cannot be ruled out, at the present time there is no definitive evidence which demonstrates which genetic abnormalities will contribute to the onset of the disease.5 Individuals that are considered to be for their age—i.e. before entering puberty can be at higher risk for developing the condition. Further, individuals with a curvature of the spine before puberty may also be at higher risk for developing scoliosis.5 What is perhaps most interesting about the ability of modern scientists to effectively identify the risk factors associated with the development of scoliosis is that there are few “warning signs” for this condition. [...]
[...] Although the specific title of “idiopathic” indicates that the root cause of this type of scoliosis has not been determined, research on this type of scoliosis indicates that there is a genetic component to this condition: “Collectively, these studies characterize idiopathic scoliosis as a single-gene disorder that follows the simple patterns of mendelian genetics. This concept defines the gene as the inherited unit transmitted from parent to offspring, which is responsible for the observable trait.”4 Although researchers speculate that genetics does indeed play a key role in the development of idiopathic scoliosis, there the science of this condition is only now being uncovered by researchers. [...]
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