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About Scoliosis

Scoliosis, or abnormal curving of the spine, affects about 3% of people. Mild cases may not affect daily living. But severe cases can be painful and limit normal activity. To stop the curve from getting worse and help you go back to doing the things you love, Medtronic developed surgical treatment options for scoliosis.

Definition

The curves in our spine help the upper body maintain proper balance and alignment. However, when there are abnormal side-to-side curves in the spinal column, we refer to this as scoliosis.

Causes

There are many causes of scoliosis, including congenital spine deformities (those present at birth, either inherited or caused by the environment), genetic conditions, neuromuscular problems, and limb length inequality. Other causes for scoliosis include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, and tumors. More than 80% of scoliosis cases, however, have no known cause.

Symptoms

There are several symptoms to look for to help determine if you or someone you love has scoliosis. Should you notice any one or more of these signs, you should schedule an exam with a doctor.

  • Shoulders are different heights – one shoulder blade is more prominent than the other
  • Head is not centered directly above the pelvis
  • Appearance of a raised, prominent hip
  • Rib cages are at different heights
  • Uneven waist
  • Changes in look or texture of skin overlying the spine
  • Leaning of entire body to one side
  • Rib prominence when bent over

Diagnosis

Once suspected, scoliosis can be confirmed with a diagnostic exam such as an x-ray, spinal radiograph, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine. The curve is then measured and is discussed in terms of degrees. Generally, a curve is considered significant if it is greater than 25 to 30 degrees. Curves exceeding 45 to 50 degrees are considered more severe.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 9 Jun 2012

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