When you hear the word "deformity," you may think of hidden-away characters in movies -- certainly not something that could affect your healthy child. But any sideways curve in the spine - known as scoliosis - is considered a deformity. A spine with scoliosis takes on a curve that resembles the letters C or S; normally, the spine looks like the letter I.
Catching and managing it early will usually prevent it from progressing to an extreme degree. That's where the discussion of school scoliosis screening programs comes in.
Current StatusAbout half of U.S. states have mandatory scoliosis screening in their schools. Evidence and expert opinion is pretty much split down the middle as to how useful these programs are.
In 1996, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force reviewed all of the studies that had been done on the topic of scoliosis screening programs and concluded they should not be recommended. But in 2008, a task force consisting of four medical associations -- the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Scoliosis Research Society, Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics -- issued a position statement stating that they would not support any recommendation against school screenings.
Their statement represents a doctor's point of view. They believe that scoliosis screening programs help detect this deformity early, which in turn, can help prevent unnecessary back surgeries. Also, in poor or under served neighborhoods, school-based scoliosis screenings may be the child's only chance to get the help they need in a timely fashion.
BackgroundScoliosis is an abnormal side-to-side curve of the spine. There are numerous causes of scoliosis including neurological diseases, musculoskeletal problems or inherited connective tissue disorders, but most of the time, the cause is unknown.
Scoliosis with an unknown cause is called idiopathic. Idiopathic scoliosis is classified according to the age of the child when the deformity first starts:
- Early onset scoliosis begins at or before age three.
- Juvenile scoliosis begins between three and ten years.
- Adolescent scoliosis begins between age ten and when the skeleton matures.