Determining the Severity of Scoliosis

Determining Scoliosis Severity

Finding an effective treatment for scoliosis starts with determining the severity of the curvature of the spine. While there is no cure for scoliosis outside of spine surgery to correct a severely misaligned spine, the symptoms can be managed once the degree of the curvature is determined.

Planes of the Spine

Scoliosis is typically measured on the frontal (coronal) plane, or the portion of the spine viewed from the front. Even though people may have issues with poor posture, a healthy spinal column is straight. Determining the degree of the curvature can involve three planes. In addition to the coronal plane, the sagittal (dividing the body into right and left halves) and axial (dividing the body by top and bottom halves) planes may also be considered when determining curvature.

Using the Cobb Method

The degree of the curvature in relation to the planes of the spine is measured using the Cobb Method. Named after orthopedic surgeon John Robert Cobb, the technique involves measuring the angle between a parallel line along the coronal plane and the end-plate of a vertebra in the affected area.

Interpreting the Results

A positive diagnosis of scoliosis is made when the curvature between the coronal plane and a portion of the spine is greater than 10 degrees. Abnormal curvature of the spine isn’t considered significant unless the degree of difference is more than 25-30 degrees. Surgery is usually the primary option for curvatures exceeding 50 degrees.

Finding the Right Treatment

Since the degree of spinal deformity can become progressively more severe over time, patients need to be monitored to determine if the curvature is getting worse. Ultimately, further treatment depends on how much pain and discomfort a patient is experiencing. Typical treatments for scoliosis include bracing to stabilize the spine and prevent further curvature and regular exams, usually every 4-6 months for children and once a year for adults.

If you or someone you love is living with scoliosis and you’re looking for available treatment options, call (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation with Dr. Hyun Bae and learn your options for minimally invasive fusion and non-fusion spine surgeries.