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Spinal deformities – Scoliosis and Kyphosis

What is Scoliosis and kyphosis?

An alteration in the shape and alignment of the spine leads to a spinal deformity. Scoliosis is an abnormal sideward curvature of the spine and kyphosis is an abnormal forward curvature (hunch-back) of the spine.

What causes these diseases?

  • Congenital causes - Scoliosis and kyphosis can result from births defects in the vertebrae
  • Idiopathic causes - In some instances, the exact cause is still not known
  • Associated with other diseases and syndromes - Scoliosis may be a manifestation of diseases like Marfan’s syndrome, Neurofibromatosis, Cerebral palsy etc.

What are the symptoms/effects?

  • Early onset scoliosis (diagnosed below the age of 7 years) can affect the growth and maturity of the lungs and in severe cases can shorten the life span
  • Scoliosis and kyphosis may increase in severity as the child grows
  • Severe curves (more than 50-60 degrees) can progress even after skeletal maturity (after the growth is complete)
  • Unacceptable cosmetic appearance (subjective).

How are they diagnosed?

Scoliosis and kyphosis are diagnosed by a clinical examination and confirmed with X-rays (radiographs). MRI scans and CT scan help to delineate the bony pathology and assess the spinal cord and neural structures.

What are the treatment options?

Observation - Serial examinations and follow-up using X-ray’s may be performed when the curve is small and to assess whether it is getting worse.

Orthosis - Braces may be used in some varieties of scoliosis during the growing years.

Operation - Surgery is advisable to curves that are progressing, in the presence of certain patterns of congenital vertebral defects or if the curve is more than 50 -60 degrees and when it is causing imbalance of the body shape.

Who is at risk? / How can I prevent it?

Early diagnosis and management is the key to a good and successful outcome.