The spine is a complicated structure within the body. It is strong and yet delicate and vulnerable at the same time. Any problems with the spine can potentially affect the quality of life. One such problem is scoliosis. This disorder can vary from having a slight restrictive influence on a person’s life, to being highly debilitating and even a major risk to health. Samitivej Hospital’s Scoliosis Center recognize the wide variance of issues that can be caused by the disorder and have a dedicated team of professionals committed to improve the lives of scoliosis sufferers.
Scoliosis, an Overview
Scoliosis is a spinal disorder which usually becomes apparent during adolescence affecting around 3% of those in that age bracket. In most cases the cause of the disorder, which results in a sideways curvature of the spine, will be unknown. Although, other conditions, such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, are known to be a possible catalyst for the disorder.
The vast majority of scoliosis disorders tend to be very mild. However, in some cases, as a child grows and develops, the disorder can worsen and the deformity may become more pronounced. In the more severe cases the spinal curve can result in a reduction of the space within the chest cavity and negatively affect the functioning of the lungs, leading to a degree of debilitation.
What Causes Scoliosis?
The specialists at Samitivej Hospital will always endeavor to diagnose a cause for every case of scoliosis, however, causes of the most common types of scoliosis remain somewhat vague. These cases of idiopathic scoliosis account for as much as 80% of the total number and remain undiagnosed by cause. With that said, it is thought that hereditary factors play a significant part in assessing the causes of scoliosis, largely because the disorder has a tendency to run in families.
The disorder can begin prior to birth as the unborn child develops. This is congenital scoliosis, it may be identified at birth, on the other hand it can be years until it is diagnosed. I the unborn child, the vertebrae are very tiny and problems are extremely difficult to identify. Being very fragile, these vertebrae can be damaged or they may fail to divide as they should.
Neuromuscular scoliosis is more akin to spina bifida, an injury to the spinal cord, or other medical disorders such as cerebral palsy. Samitivej Hospital’s specialists are well versed in these conditions and are aware that any of them can result in muscular damage which then results in a lack of support to the bones in the back. This will then lead to a curvature of the spine.
Degenerative scoliosis affects adults. As its name suggests, it is a result of aging. Degenerative scoliosis is most commonly found in the lower spine. As the discs and joints start to degenerate due to the wear and tear of age, the disorder can become apparent and become debilitating. It is difficult to pinpoint the number of degenerative scoliosis sufferers because it will often go undiagnosed. However, it is commonly accepted that around 60% of people over the age of 60 will experience degenerative scoliosis to some degree.
What are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?
The exact symptoms and signals of scoliosis sufferance are many and varied. At the Samitivej Scoliosis Center, a specialist will undertake a thorough diagnosis. The key information will be gleamed from both a physical examination and appropriate questioning of each patient’s experiences and symptoms.
It may be that there is an obvious curve in the back and the patient may have a slight lean to one side, particularly when standing. The hips, waist and shoulders may appear to be misaligned. One scapula, or shoulder blade, may seem to be bigger or prominent than the other and the ribs may protrude more on one side of the body.
In addition to these visible indicators the disorder will often result in stiffness and pain in back. The disorder can also cause the nerves to be pinched, this in turn can result in a degree of numbness. Due to misalignment of the bone structures in the torso uneven loads can be put upon the muscles, this can result in muscle fatigue leading to painful strains.
Who is at Risk of Developing Scoliosis?
At Samitivej Hospital’s Scoliosis Center the professional team of spine specialists have pinpointed key risk factors for developing the most common type of scoliosis. Family history is a known factor, although it is not the dominant key in identifying sufferance. Gender also seems to play a part in how the disorder develops in the young. Boys and girls have an equal risk of having scoliosis, but statistics show that girls have a higher risk of the disorder worsening than boys.
Age also plays its part in developing scoliosis, and it’s not just with degenerative scoliosis associated with old age. Signs and symptoms are more common in adolescents as they go through a growth spurt, usually just prior to puberty.
Treatment at Samitivej Hospital Scoliosis Center
Cast or Brace Treatment is recommended by Samitivej’s specialists for sufferers with a curvature that exceeds 30 degrees. This is a cast or brace that fits closely fits the upper torso. It is specifically designed to re-train the spine and to prevent the curvature from worsening. The device is worn at all times, except for bathing. The patient can expect to wear the brace until they reach an age when they have stopped growing and that the curvature of the spine ceased to increase.
In more severe cases, where the curvature exceeds 45 degrees and the patient is still growing, it is possible that the specialist will advise on a surgical correctional procedure. The surgical procedure is also an option for older patients where growth is complete and the spinal curvature exceeds 50 degrees.
The advantage of surgery is that it can straighten a curvature of the spine permanently. This is achieved by attaching metal rods which realigns and straightens the spine. Post-surgery, the patient will need to refrain from any activity that involves any movement of the spine for up to 9 months. Following this the patient can begin low stress exercises, beginning with walking and swimming.
The surgical procedure for scoliosis is a delicate, difficult procedure and is only ever conducted by the most highly trained and experienced surgeons in the field. Samitivej Hospitals Scoliosis Center is led by the most exemplary surgeons practicing in Asia, Prof. Emer. Charoen Chotigavanich, M.D. and Prof. Prakit Tienboon, M.D. lead Samitivej’s world class team.
Scoliosis is certainly an unpleasant disorder, but diagnosed early, and with the best expertise, it needn’t be entirely debilitating. With the expert team at Samitivej Hospital’s Scoliosis Center expert diagnosis and world class treatment, sufferers can live a full and active life.