What is Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS)?

The most common type of scoliosis, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), is characterized by an abnormal spine curvature that becomes evident in late childhood or adolescence – Most often between the ages of 10 and 18. For as many as 4 out of every 100 children, the spine’s normally straight, vertical path curves horizontally into a “C” or “S” shape during this common period of rapid growth. Frequently, the spinal vertebrae also become slightly twisted or rotated as a result of AIS. Some curves resulting from adolescent idiopathic scoliosis remain static after appearing, though others will progress in severity over time.

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Before Surgery
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis After Surgery

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Causes

Although scoliosis may occur for a wide range of reasons, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis usually surfaces without any correlation to other conditions. The term “idiopathic” refers to AIS’s mysterious and spontaneous nature as this condition has no definite and identifiable cause.

Generally, it is agreed that adolescent idiopathic scoliosis probably stems from a combination of environmental and genetic factors, such as:

  • Hormonal problems
  • Abnormal bone or muscle growth
  • Nervous symptom abnormalities
  • Genetic disposition

Approximately 30% of patients suffering from adolescent idiopathic scoliosis have a family history of scoliosis, affirming researcher’s suspicions that AIS has an inheritable component. Although both girls and boys have an equal chance of contracting AIS, girls are at a higher risk for developing more severe spinal curves that worsen over time.

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Symptoms

For the most part, patients experiencing adolescent idiopathic scoliosis do not exhibit unbearably extreme pain or neurological complications.

The most common symptoms of AIS include:

  • Shoulder Height Asymmetry: The curvature resulting from AIS may make one shoulder appear taller than the other.
  • Tilted Shoulders: One shoulder blade may protrude in a forward direction more than the other.
  • Rib “Hump”: The most visible sign of scoliosis, rib “hump” occurs when curves in the spine cause a protrusion on the back or a rib. This symptom is especially visible from directly behind a patient.
  • Torso “Lean”: Especially noticeable when scoliosis involves a curve in the thoracic (middle back) or lumbar (lower back) areas of the spine without any secondary curve, the upper body may appear to shift to the left or the right. One hip may also appear higher than the other as a result of torso “lean.”

If you experience additional complications, contact your doctor immediately as these may be indicative of other serious conditions or a secondary issue.

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Non-Surgical Treatment Options

If you believe you or your child has adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Although AIS can usually be safely and effectively managed, curves may drastically progress over time if not carefully monitored and promptly treated. Extreme curves can minimize a patient’s quality of life and may even cause additional difficulties as they press upon surrounding organs. For this reason, it is best to identify and address adolescent idiopathic scoliosis early in the condition’s advancement.

At Laser Spine & Orthopedics®, our experienced spine and pain management specialists are dedicated to helping you improve your health and well-being so that you can fully pursue the activities you love. Upon your initial visit to Laser Spine & Orthopedics®, one of our knowledgeable physicians will complete a thorough examination in order to obtain a complete diagnosis. This process involves discussing your symptoms, family history, physical state and potentially performing diagnostic tests such as X-rays. After determining the severity of your condition, our team will create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your unique needs and health history.

When possible, we encourage a combination of conservative treatments before recommending surgery. If a spinal curvature is less than 25 degrees and growth spurts are not likely to continue, careful monitoring and non-surgical treatment may be sufficient in managing adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. For curves with a more noticeable arch or that occur when a child is likely to continue growing, bracing can also be an effective option. Studies show bracing, when properly implemented, can help patients avoid the need for surgery by keeping a curve from progressing.

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Minimally Invasive Approach

In some cases, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis may necessitate surgical intervention to safeguard or restore a patient’s quality of life. Severe and untreated curves can be debilitating and press against surrounding organs. This can inhibit lung function and cause other dangerous complications. If you or your child are at risk for these problems, minimally invasive surgery may be the most viable option.

Commonly, spine fusion surgeries are used to address adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. During this procedure, a spine surgeon’s goal is to prevent curve progression and obtain as much curve correction as possible by using bone graft material and small silver rods to straighten the spine.

At Laser Spine & Orthopedics®, our surgeons use advanced minimally invasive techniques whenever possible while performing fusion surgeries. Benefits associated with minimally invasive procedures include:

  • Use of tiny incisions
  • Minimized risk of scarring and trauma to surrounding areas
  • Lower volume of blood loss

Additionally, patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery generally experience shorter hospital stays and significantly accelerated recovery timelines.

For more information about adolescent idiopathic scoliosis or Laser Spine & Orthopedics®, please call us directly at 972-255-5588 or fill out the form on this page. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you or your child overcome scoliosis!

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