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Scoliosis: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Stages and Treatments

Commonly asked questions about Scoliosis:

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine that is often S- or C-shaped. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, although it can worsen and become severely debilitating.

Scoliosis is most often developed during the growth spurt that occurs just prior to puberty. Females and males develop scoliosis at about the same rate, but girls have a much higher risk of the condition worsening and requiring treatment.

What is the Cause of Scoliosis?

The cause of the most common type of scoliosis remains unknown. Doctors believe there could be a hereditary link, as the condition tends to run in families.

Less common types of scoliosis may be caused by:

  • Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
  • Congenital defects affecting the development of the bones of the spine
  • Spinal injuries or infections

What are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

Mild scoliosis can occur and remain undetected because it can develop gradually and may not cause any pain. These are the signs and symptoms that manifest when scoliosis has developed:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade appears more prominent than the other
  • Uneven waist
  • Uneven hips

If scoliosis progresses without treatment, the spine will also rotate or twist in addition to curving sideways. This causes the ribs on one side of the body to stick out further than on the other side.

What are the Types of Scoliosis?

In most cases, scoliosis is diagnosed when the patient is a teenager. This is known as adolescent scoliosis.

When scoliosis is diagnosed before the age of 10, it is known as early onset scoliosis, or EOS.

It is important to establish a distinction between the two types of scoliosis, because children under the age of 10 have spines that are still growing and developing. Thus, the treatments for adolescent scoliosis and EOS must be very different. In EOS patients, the treatment must be able to control the deformity from progressing while also allowing the spine to continue growing.

There are four main types of EOS:

  • Idiopathic – No apparent cause for the curvature
  • Congenital – Vertebrae develop incorrectly inutero. This is sometimes associated with cardiac and renal abnormalities.
  • Neuromuscular – Develops in children with neuromuscular disorders such as spinal muscular atrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and brain or spinal cord injury
  • Syndromic – Associated with connective tissue disorders, bone dysplasias, and other syndromes.

What are the Complications of Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is most often a mild disorder, but in the rare cases where it progresses to severity, complications can arise.

Such complications include:

  • Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome (TIS) – Occurs when the spine begins to crowd the space within the chest cavity and prevents the chest cavity from supporting normal breathing and lung growth
  • Lung & heart damage – Can occur if the rib cage presses against the lungs and heart, making it difficult to breathe and harder for the heart to pump
  • Back problems – Children with scoliosis have an increased chance of developing chronic back pain as adults
  • Appearance – Severe scoliosis can cause noticeable changes in appearance, such as uneven shoulders, prominent ribs, uneven hips, and uneven hips.

How is Scoliosis Treated?

Treatment for scoliosis is determined on a case by case basis, depending on factors like patient age, degree of curvature, location of curvature, and more. Generally, there are three types of treatment.

Observation
  • Treats mild cases of scoliosis
  • Curvature monitored for change by periodic examination
  • X-rays usually taken as needed
  • If the curvature worsens, additional evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon may be necessary
Braces
  • Treats moderate cases when the child’s bones are still growing
  • Doesn’t cure or reverse the curvature, but prevents further progression
  • Fits under the arms and around the rib cage, lower back, and hips
  • Generally made of plastic and designed to conform to the body
  • Most are worn day and night
  • Usually does not restrict the child’s activity. Can even be removed if necessary.
  • Brace can be discontinued once the bones stop growing
Surgery
  • Treats severe cases to reduce curvature and prevent it from worsening
  • Most common type of scoliosis surgery is spinal fusion, which involves connecting bones of the spine and implanting rods, hooks, or screws to hold the spine straight while the bones fuse together
  • In some cases a metal rod is implanted in the spine that can be lengthened at the child grows
  • To lengthen these devices, additional surgery is often needed every 6 months or so
  • There are some devices, like the NuVasive MAGEC System, that use magnets to lengthen the rod and avoid frequent invasive procedures

NuVasive MAGEC System Lawsuits

The NuVasive MAGEC System is used to treat early onset scoliosis. It is a magnetically controlled growing rod system that is surgically implanted and can thereafter be distracted externally as the child grows.

NuVasive advertises the MAGEC System as an alternative to constant surgery required by most traditional growing rods. However, there have recently been numerous reports of the MAGEC System failing, causing children to undergo revision or extraction surgery.

Complications of the device include failure of the rod to lengthen, rod fracture, metallosis, and more.

Unplanned surgeries present an increased risk of infection to patients, as well as financial and emotional stress, and the long-term side effects of metallosis in children are still unknown.

As the manufacturer of the device, NuVasive has a responsibility to ensure their products are safe and perform as designed. Any potential complications should be clearly documented so that patients are given due warning.

Our dangerous device attorneys are currently investigating cases of NuVasive MAGEC System complications. If your child received a MAGEC System implant and later had to undergo revision surgery, you and your child may be entitled to compensation for the cost of the surgery, additional medical treatment, pain and suffering, and more.

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