How is scoliosis diagnosed?

A Answers (3)

  • Scoliosis is typically first diagnosed through a physical exam. The doctor will ask the child to bend over into a position that makes a spinal curve more visible. X-rays will confirm the diagnosis and show the curve of the spine more definitively. Other tests may be required if the curve is thought to be caused by another medical condition. Children with scoliosis may need to be monitored closely by their doctor to make sure that the curve does not get worse with time.

  • AHealthwise answered

    Scoliosis testing usually begins with a history and physical exam. This includes the forward-bending test, a simple test in which the child bends forward at the waist, arms hanging loosely and palms touching and the examiner looks for unevenness in the child's back or ribs. A scoliometer can be used to measure and estimate the rotation of the spinal curve. If the findings of the history and physical exam show a significant spinal curve, an X-ray of the spine may be taken to get a more precise measurement of the spinal curve.

    Skeletal age, as determined by the Risser sign, is also a helpful measure to find out the risk that the curve will get worse.

    If someone in your family has scoliosis, your children should be checked regularly.

    Neurological testing may be done on children who have scoliosis to see if they have certain disorders that are often associated with scoliosis, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

    Early detection - Screening means doing a simple test to see whether further testing might be needed. Some states require screening for scoliosis by law. But experts don't agree with whether or not to screen for scoliosis. Screening can lead to early treatment and may prevent curves from getting worse, but screening can also lead to more testing or treatment for children who would not have needed it. Some experts believe that children (especially daughters) of women who have scoliosis should be screened for scoliosis regularly throughout their late childhood and teen years. If you are concerned about screening for scoliosis, talk to your child's doctor.

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  • AMargaret Payne, MD, Pediatrics, answered
    Scoliosis is initially diagnosed by a screening exam.  Some areas have school nurses screen for scoliosis during specified times of early adolescence.  Every child should have an annual checkup and part of that exam should include screening for scoliosis.  This is easily done by having the patient bend 90 degrees at the waist, keeping the back straight. The spine is then easily visible.  If scoliosis is present there will either be an obvious curve in the spine or one side of the back at the shoulder blade level will be higher than the other. The actual degree of scoliosis can be confirmed by Xray.  

     Scoliosis appears in the middle to younger high school aged child as they go through their rapid growth spurt.  This can develop rapidly and can be missed if not checked annually.  Once an adolescent has stopped growing, scoliosis cannot be treated by simple medical intervention.  If caught early, however, bracing can be started to prevent further curvature from developing.
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