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Spine Surgery Guide

Exams and Tests for Scoliosis

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 determine 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 determine whether they have certain disorders that are often associated with scoliosis, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

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Early Detection

Children of women who have scoliosis should be screened for scoliosis regularly throughout their late childhood and teen years.5
Screening for scoliosis in schools is recommended by some major health organizations, such as the Scoliosis Research Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics.6 However, theU.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against routine screening for idiopathic scoliosis in older children and teens who do not have any symptoms.7 Idiopathic scoliosis means that the spinal curve develops for unknown reasons. This is the most common type of scoliosis and usually is first noticed in late childhood.

Experts who support screening believe that early detection may lead to early treatment, which may stop the curve from getting worse. In some states, screening for scoliosis is required by law. Initial screening may be done at school. Follow-up screening may be done by the same health professional after a period of time or by your doctor.

Many children are referred for further evaluation who do not need it. Some researchers suggest adding other screening tests to the forward-bending test to make school screening more effective.

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This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient.
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