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Straight Answers for Curved Spines from Scheuermann's Disease

Posted on: 12/20/2002
Doctors are working hard to find the best treatment for each and every disease and condition. One way they do this is to compare the results of different treatment methods for a single disease or condition. Scheuermann's disease has been studied this way.

Scheuermann's is a back condition with excessive forward rounding or curvature of the spine, called kyphosis. It mainly occurs in the middle section of the back. The cause is unknown, but it develops when three or more vertebrae become wedge shaped. These changes result in deformity.

Treatment is usually based on age and amount of kyphosis. For example, a child or teenager who hasn't finished growing yet is usually watched carefully and given exercises. A brace may be prescribed. It is most effective when used before the skeleton matures, at about age fourteen. The curve usually measures less than 50 degrees. Normal kyphosis is up to 40 degrees of curvature.

Surgery may be advised for patients with back pain, excessive wedging, and a curve near 70 degrees. The kind of surgery depends on the patient's age, severity of deformity and curve, and appearance. Sometimes, a patient will be treated with all three methods as he or she grows and matures from an adolescent to an adult.

It's not easy to compare these three treatment options. Age, severity, and symptoms change over time. The treatment selected reflects these changes. However, doctors report that it's possible to successfully treat patients with Scheuermann's kyphosis. The treatment matches the severity of the condition. Using this method, each patient can keep living and working at the same level, even if the back condition gets worse.

C. L. Soo, MD, et al. Scheuermann Kyphosis: Long-Term Follow-up. In The Spine Journal. January/February 2002. Vol. 2. No. 1. Pp. 49-56.

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