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Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, either to the left or to the right. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a type of scoliosis that occurs in children between 10 to16 years of age. The term “idiopathic” means that the cause of scoliosis is unknown; the exact cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown in most cases, but there seems to be a genetic predisposition. The incidence is higher among girls when compared to boys.
The common signs and symptoms of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis include limb length inequality, uneven shoulder levels or protrusion of one shoulder blade, walking abnormality, abnormal curvature of the spine, inequalities in the levels of the hip, uneven trouser lengths, ill-fitting clothing, and back pain.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is usually noticed by a parent or detected by a teacher during a routine physical examination.
Your physician will diagnose scoliosis based on the following criteria:
The treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is important because if left untreated, the curvature may result in significant deformity and can cause psychological distress and physical disability for your child. In addition, the deformity can have serious physical consequences. As the vertebrae rotate, the rib cage is affected, and this can lead to serious heart and lung problems. In order to compensate for the major curve and maintain balance, the spine may develop a secondary curve above or below the AIS curve.
Treatment options include non-surgical and surgical treatment. The non–surgical treatment options include:
Surgical correction of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis may be necessary if nonsurgical treatment fails and if the curvature is severe. The aim of the surgery is to correct the curve, prevent curve progression, and to stabilize the spine. Scoliosis surgery usually involves spinal instrumentation (i.e. rods, screws) and fusion (bone graft) that secures the spine to stop curve progression.
Your spine surgeon can discuss all aspects of the procedure, including risks and benefits so that you and your child are well informed. If your child develops signs and symptoms suggestive of AIS consult your doctor immediately. They are the most reliable resource to answer all your questions and help you understand the condition better.