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How is scoliosis diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about the symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. The doctor asks the child to

bend forward and views the spine from behind, because the abnormal spinal curve can be seen more easily in this position. Currently, x-rays are the most cost-efficient method for diagnosing scoliosis. X-rays show the precise angles of curvature. If doctors think scoliosis may worsen, they may examine the child several times a year. X-rays taken when patients are bending forward can also help differentiate between structural and nonstructural scoliosis. In children and young adolescents who have mild curves and in older adolescents who have more severe curvatures but whose growth has slowed or stopped, x-rays should be performed every few months in order to detect increasing severity. Initial imaging evaluation of a patient suspected of having scoliosis is a standing posterior-anterior (back to front) radiograph of the entire spine. Modern radiographic techniques minimize radiation exposure. When a curve is present, it is measured and discussed in terms of degrees. Most curves measure from 10 to 40 degrees in magnitude. Although radiographic measurements are used to decide treatment, a small degree of error exists when comparing radiographs. A change of 5 degrees in measurements is usually needed to document an actual change in curve progression.
 

More information on scoliosis

What is scoliosis? - Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine. In most cases this curvature develops during childhood and adolescence.
What causes scoliosis? - Congenital scoliosis is caused by inborn spinal deformities that may result in the development of absent or fused vertebrae.
What're the symptoms of scoliosis? - The symptoms of scoliosis may resemble other spinal conditions or deformities, or may be a result of an injury or infection.
How is scoliosis diagnosed? - X-rays are the most cost-efficient method for diagnosing scoliosis. X-rays show the precise angles of curvature.
What is the treatment for scoliosis? - Most cases of idiopathic scoliosis are mild and require no treatment. Surgery may be recommended when the curve measures 50 degrees or more.
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