University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute
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Programs and Services

Scoliosis and Spine Center

Scoliosis Causes and Treatments

Causes

Approximately 80 percent of all scoliosis cases originate from an unknown cause, making it an idiopathic condition. However, scoliosis also tends to run in families and affects more girls than boys. Statistically, 23 out of every 1000 individuals will develop scoliosis.

Posture has no known relationship to scoliosis, nor does athletic movement, carrying heavy items or minor limb length inequalities. Though it primarily affects children, scoliosis occurs in adults as well. If left untreated, the deformation of the scoliotic spine will progress and can affect vital functions and locomotion, as well as posture and appearance.

How the Spine Functions

Understanding the spine can help you to better understand scoliosis. The spine is the framework of the trunk that supports the head, thoracic cavity (chest) and upper arms. It is embedded in the pelvis, that in turn, is supported by the legs.

The spine performs a critical function for the body, allowing it to remain erect, protecting the spinal cord and enabling the proper function of the heart and lungs. Its role in locomotion is to allow proper body balance while controlling movement harmony and magnitude.

Treating Scoliosis

Early detection is very important in the treatment of scoliosis. While the condition is not preventable, symptoms can be lessened or halted if treated early, especially during a child's growing years.

Another condition, known as kyphosis (round back), may also occur in developing adolescents. Screening for it can be conducted at the same time as when screening for scoliosis.

Some schools have nurses that screen children for the warning signs of scoliosis. Physicians, including your general pediatrician or family physician, can accurately diagnose scoliosis in an office setting. Again, a simple, 30-second postural screening can make the difference in diagnosing scoliosis in its earliest stage.

Most spinal curvatures remain small and only need to be monitored for progression. When medical intervention is necessary, advances in modern orthopaedic techniques have made scoliosis a highly manageable condition:

  • Bracing - Controls milder curves during childhood growth and can prevent mild to moderate curves from worsening
  • Surgery - If satisfactory results are not achieved with bracing, or if bracing is not an option, surgery may be used. The surgery, called spinal fusion, has a very high success rate with most patients. Kernan has a "state of the art" scoliosis program. A well defined clinical pathway for care has been developed to ensure the most effective and efficient treatment.
For more information or to make an appointment, please call the Kernan Scoliosis and Spine Center at 410-448-6780.