Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that affects about 7% of people, but the good news is almost everyone can be treated without surgery using a combination of observation, preventive exercise, therapy, and in some cases spinal bracing. The term Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis or AIS refers to the most common form of scoliosis that is noticed during the early teenage years. Any spinal curvature can get bigger especially during a teenager’s growth spurt and that is why this is the time when we need to watch teenagers very closely and be proactive with their care. Most teenagers with AIS do not have any pain and can expect to live a full, normal quality of life.
For the few patients with worsening scoliosis, wearing the brace during the growth spurt can be a very effective way to prevent the curve from worsening and help the patient to avoid surgery. About 1 in 1,000 teenagers end up having a scoliosis that gets worse to the point where surgery is required. The goal of the surgery is to straighten the spine and prevent further progression of the scoliosis. When we correct the curve our goal is to get the best functional and cosmetic results. Surgery involves instrumentation to correct and de-rotate the spine back to a more normal alignment. Most teenagers who do need surgery do exceptionally well and get back to their full life without pain once they are healed.