Scoliosis is a condition that can affect the spines of many children, teenagers and adults. The human spine features many natural curvatures which help our bodies to move and be flexible.
Some curvature in the neck, upper trunk and lower trunk is normal. Humans need these spinal curves to help the upper body maintain proper balance and alignment over the pelvis. However, when there are abnormal side-to-side (lateral) curves in the spinal column, this condition is referred to as scoliosis.
Scoliosis affects 2% of women and 0.5% of men in the general population. There are many causes of scoliosis, including congenital spine deformities, genetic conditions, neuromuscular problems and limb length inequality. Other causes for scoliosis include cerebral palsy, spina bifida (split spine), muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy and tumors. People with a family history of spinal deformity are at greater risk for developing scoliosis. Over 80% of scoliosis cases, however, are idiopathic, which means that there is no known cause. Most idiopathic scoliosis cases are found in otherwise healthy people.
ELITE met Bangkok Hospital’s Bangkok Spine Academy Senior Director Dr. Phudhiphorn Thienprasit to know more about scoliosis and the treatments available for correcting the abnormal condition of spine.
If a person has scoliosis, it can interfere with his/her day-to-day life if left untreated. Scoliosis in more than 80% of cases with bend/crookedness in the spine is not severe and can be very easily attended to in its early phases by wearing a brace. Among children with scoliosis, the abnormality gets corrected over a period of time with continued use of braces. By wearing braces scoliotic children can overcome the problem when they reach adolescence without the need for a surgery. They may not be able to participate in certain activities but most of them can lead a normal life, says Dr. Phudhiphorn.
|Scoliosis before using a brace||Scoliosis after using a brace|
Scoliosis is more common in Thailand than previously thought. Unlike in Western countries, we don’t have a mandatory screening programme at various schools to identify children with the problem in the early stages, adds the doctor.
The Bangkok Hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and specialist doctors to treat children, youngsters and adults suffering from scoliosis. Braces recommended by the hospital doctors are custom-made by a German-trained specialist according to the size of the pelvis and the degree of curvature (of the spine).
Bracing is the usual treatment for children with curves greater than 20° and at least two years of growth remaining. Bracing is usually not prescribed when the curve is greater than 40° in which case, surgery may be necessary.
Adults may undergo surgery for scoliosis for different reasons, especially, chronic pain. Unlike scoliosis surgery for children, correcting the curve isn’t the most important goal of surgery. Instead, trying to stop the curve from getting worse later is the main goal.
However, the older you are, the riskier the surgery is. Compared to children, adults are more at risk for postsurgical complications, such as infection and pneumonia. Regardless, if you and your surgeon feel surgery is the best option, you should go ahead with it, points Dr.Phudhiphorn