Can Scoliosis Be Misdiagnosed?

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Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that most often occurs during growth spurts before puberty. The spine may curve to one side, or it may curve into an “S” shape. In rare cases, scoliosis may be caused by cerebral palsy or muscular abnormalities, but the causes for most cases remains unknown.

Scoliosis is fairly common with approximately three million new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. Most cases are mild with few noticeable symptoms, but severe cases can be painful and debilitating. The condition is more common in girls, and they are more likely to develop extreme curvatures as well.

Types of Scoliosis

Scoliosis can be categorized into three basic types identified by their cause and age of onset. Type and progression may affect treatment.

Idiopathic Scoliosis: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of spinal deformity, and there is no known cause or single factor that leads to its development. Diagnosing idiopathic scoliosis as early as possible is crucial to prevent progression and treat it effectively.

Congenital Scoliosis: This form is the result of a spine defect present from birth. Because of this, it’s generally diagnosed earlier than other types.

Neuromuscular Scoliosis: This type is developed due to another condition that affects the spine or muscles controlling it, and this form tends to progress more rapidly than others. There are several potential causes such as cerebral palsy, muscular atrophy, and myelodysplasia. Since these cases tend to be more complex than others, they are often handled by a team of doctors.


Scoliosis is generally diagnosed through a physical exam and a combination of x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. The spine is measured using the Cobb Method, and the diagnosis is based on the severity of the curve. A curve greater than 10 degrees meets the requirements for a scoliosis diagnosis, and a curve of greater than 25 degrees is considered significant. Curves greater than 45 degrees are classed as severe and generally require the most aggressive treatment.

Scoliosis can be misdiagnosed, and this most frequently happens when minor curves in the spine are observed. There are cases where the spine may not appear straight due to muscular stress or other factors that cause tilts in the lower back. Medical professionals may also fail to diagnose existing cases of scoliosis, which can have serious consequences. If left untreated into adulthood, degenerative scoliosis may develop, which is typically painful.

A misdiagnosis is a form of medical malpractice, and if you’ve suffered because of it, you might consider consulting with an experienced law firm to seek justice. Health care professionals typically have malpractice attorneys like Howard Fensterman, so going it alone isn’t advisable.


There are many factors that will affect the treatment of scoliosis patients. These include things like spinal maturity, the severity and location of the curve, and whether progression is considered likely. Scoliosis Systems offers an advanced, non-surgical program for children and adults diagnosed with scoliosis. They also provide an at-home exercise program tailored for individual health and spine curvatures.

Sometimes observation is all that’s required. This is often true for children with mild curvatures. With regular checkups, doctors can monitor the curve for progression, and further steps may prove unnecessary. For children and adolescents who haven’t reached skeletal maturity, braces can be effective for halting a curve’s progression. Newer brace models can be worn under the arms and are often successful when regularly refitted to compensate for growth.

In more severe cases, surgery may be required to stop progression and diminish deformity. Surgery typically involves straightening the spine using a combination of titanium rods and bone grafts. There are minimally invasive options that utilize small incisions down the back, but these aren’t always possible. Adult scoliosis patients may need revision surgeries later in life or to stop the progression of degenerative scoliosis.

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