The treatments for scoliosis are not always straightforward. Some young people do not need treatment at all -- only careful observation. When treatment is necessary, several options, including braces and various surgical procedures, can help.
Decision to Treat or Wait
The general rule of thumb for treating scoliosis is to monitor the condition if the curve is less than 20 degrees. Curves greater than 25 degrees, or those that progress by 10 degrees while being monitored, may require treatment. Whether scoliosis is treated immediately or simply monitored is not an easy decision, however. The percentage of cases that will progress more than 5 degrees can be as low as 5% or as high as 50 - 90%, depending on the severity of the curve or other predisposing factors:
Age. In general, the older the child the less likely it is that the curve will progress. Scoliosis in a child under 10, for example, is more likely to progress than scoliosis in an adolescent. Experts estimate that curves less than 19 degrees will progress 10% in girls ages 13 - 15 years and 4% in children older than 15. Therefore, a young man of 18 who has a curvature of 30 degrees may require no treatment because his growth has probably almost stopped, and his gender puts him at lower risk. A young girl of 10, however, with the same curvature requires immediate treatment.
In some rare, severe cases, however, a curve may worsen even after a child has received treatment and stopped growing because of the weight of the body pressing against the abnormal curve.
Gender. Girls have a higher risk for progression than boys.
Review Date: 04/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.