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Scoliosis Screening

A doctor may test a young person for scoliosis during a routine physical exam. In schools, screening may be provided annually for students between the ages of 10 and 14 (grades 5 through 9). The exam takes about 30 seconds and may be done by a school nurse or physical education teacher.

  • The examiner first views the child from behind, looking for uneven shoulders, hips, or waistline or for shoulder blades that stick out or are uneven.
  • The child then bends forward from the waist, with the arms hanging down loosely and the palms touching (forward-bending test). The examiner looks for any unevenness, such as one side of the rib cage that is higher than the other. The examiner may also view the child from the side to detect a hump on the upper back (kyphosis).
  • Also, the examiner may measure the angle of trunk rotation (ATR) with a device called a scoliometer.

Some states require screening for scoliosis by law. But health experts don't agree with whether or not to screen for scoliosis.1, 2 Screening can lead to early treatment and may prevent curves from getting worse, but screening can also lead to more testing or treatment for children who would not have needed it. Some experts believe that children (especially daughters) of women who have scoliosis should be screened for scoliosis regularly throughout their late childhood and teen years.3 If you are concerned about screening for scoliosis, talk to your child's doctor.

Recommended Related to Back Pain

Back Pain: Finding the Right Doctor

Start with your primary-care physician; back pain is so common that most family docs have seen lots of it. Your PCP is also a good person to return to if, later, you get conflicting treatment advice from specialists. He or she can help you evaluate what would be your best next step.  

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For more information, see the topic Scoliosis.

Citations

  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2004). Screening for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents: Recommendation statement. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsaisc.htm.

  2. Richards BS, Vitale M (2007). SRS/AAOS Position statement: Screening for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents. An information statement. Available online: http://www.aaos.org/about/papers/position/1122.asp.

  3. Hu SS, et al. (2006). Scoliosis section of Disorders, diseases and injuries of the spine. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed., chap. 5, pp. 255-269. New York: Lange Medical/McGraw-Hill.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Last Revised July 21, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 21, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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