Scoliosis is a problem that affects the spine and is usually diagnosed in childhood. The main characteristic is an abnormal spine curvature either to the right or left side. Many of the cases do not show any symptoms. Girls are more commonly affect by the severe forms for reasons that are not clear. If symptoms are experienced they will include problems in breathing and chest and back pain. Scoliosis treatment can be done in a number of ways.
Early signs of scoliosis include: a hip or shoulder that is higher than the other, a head that is not properly centered and ribs that are raised on one side. Before undergoing any form of treatment, one needs to have a clinical history taken and a physical examination conducted. Radiological images such as X-rays and CT scans are used to assess the severity of the problem.
The objective of treatment is to prevent the worsening of the condition and to provide some stability. For the mild cases, which comprise the majority, affected persons lead normal lives even without intervention. The other cases may be managed using conservative (non-surgical) or surgical methods. The choice will be determined, to a large extent, by the severity.
If the scoliosis has been demonstrated to be the results of an underlying condition that is unrelated to the spine, it will be classified as the non-structural type. This type is corrected by managing the underlying condition. Examples include limb length differences and muscle spasms among others. If there is a disease that directly affects the spine, it will be classified as a structural type and will require direct treatment.
The conservative approach consists of two main options. The first is simply watchful waiting in which the doctor schedules for regular physical examinations sessions to determine whether there is a progression in the severity of the curvature. For children that are still growing, check-ups are scheduled to take place every four to six months. In adults, they are done once annually. The second option is to use a brace to stop the progress.
It is important that one is aware of complications that may be caused by the braces. The commonest complaint is a varying degree of discomfort on the wearers. This frequently causes non-compliance. Some people also notice skin irritation in the region covered by the brace. The curvature may continue to worsen even in the presence of the brace.
There are a number of things that can be done during surgery. The first involves the fixation of metallic rods between the affected vertebral bodies to act as a reinforcement. The second is to completely fuse the vertebra that are affected which effectively converts them into a single bone mass. This may not be suitable in patients that are still growing as it interferes with the growth of bone.
The results of treating scoliosis are better if early diagnosis and intervention are done. Factors that will determine whether or not treatment will be necessary include patient age, size of curve and skeletal age. The majority of cases are mildly and require no more than close observation. Braces are at times prescribed to stabilize the spine as growth takes place. Surgery is reserved for the most severe cases and its role is to confer stability and to prevent worsening.
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