Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. Typically diagnosed in childhood, prior to the onset of puberty, the most common form of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, has no identifiable cause and is not fully understood. Scoliosis may be the result of birth defects, abnormal muscles and nerves, and traumatic injuries of the spine. Genetics may play a role in the development of scoliosis, as people with it are more likely to have children with the condition. Girls are two times more likely to develop scoliosis than boys.

A spine that presents with scoliosis will curve to the side (laterally) into a “C” or an “S” shape. Typical symptoms include shoulders that are uneven, one shoulder blade more pronounced than the other, an uneven waist, and one side of the hip higher than the other. The ribcage may also appear uneven, jutting out further on one side of the body. In severe cases of scoliosis, breathing and circulation may be affected.

Diagnosis of scoliosis is done through a physical examination and by imaging techniques, including X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. The treatment plan depends upon the severity of the curvature of the spine. In mild cases, typical treatment options include observation and back braces. Exercise is recommended to strengthen the back. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary instances where spinal fusion surgery is recommended, there are two approaches to surgery based upon the type and curvature of the spine. The posterior approach is the most frequent approach used for scoliosis surgery. This type of surgery is performed through the back of the spine. The anterior approach to scoliosis surgery is less commonly performed than the typical posterior approach due to the surgical risks involved. This type of surgery is performed through an incision made in the front of the spine and is necessary when severe curvature of the spine is present.