Diagnosis of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is often initially noticed during a routine school screening or during an annual physical exam. Once scoliosis has been noted, a baseline study to measure the degree of curvature will be performed. Monitoring will be performed at regular intervals in order to keep track of the progression of scoliosis and to provide treatment if the curvature becomes more severe.
Tests may include:
Forward Bend Test —With feet and knees together, the child is asked to bend forward with arms dangling. The screening person will stand first behind the child and then in front to check for any visible curvature, or any uneven appearance in the ribcage, hipbones, or shoulder blades.
Inclinometer or Scoliometer —This device is used to measure the actual degree of curvature. The patient will be asked to stand with feet and knees together, and bend forward until the examiner can see a curvature in the upper spine. The inclinometer is then placed on the back, and a measurement is taken. Another measurement is taken when the patient has leaned over further, and the area of curvature is visible in the lower spine.
Back X-rays —This is the most accurate way to diagnose and to monitor the progression of scoliosis. The x-ray can identify the presence of scoliosis, and the examiner can use a technique (Cobb method) to calculate the degree of curvature.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org/ .
Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics. 10th ed. Mosby; 2003.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .
Scoliosis Research Society website. Available at: http://www.srs.org/ .
Last reviewed August 2008 by
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