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Scoliosis (Idiopathic)

Scoliosis (Idiopathic) is a topic covered in the Select 5-Minute Pediatrics Topics.

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  • Scoliosis: lateral curvature of spine exceeding 10 degrees on PA full-spine radiograph (with rotation of spine); curves <10 are termed spinal asymmetry; considered idiopathic only after other causes have been excluded
  • Kyphosis: anteriorly concave curvature of vertebral column


  • Female-to-male ratios:
    • 1.4:1 for curves 11–20 degrees
    • 5.4:1 for curves >20 degrees


  • Generally considered 1.5–3% for curves ≥10 degrees
  • 0.3–0.5% for curves >20 degrees

Risk Factors


Positive familial history for idiopathic scoliosis in 30% (not predictive of severity)

  • Under active investigation: GWAS and whole exome sequencing studies
  • Several candidate genes have been identified.


By definition, unknown; listed are some theories, none proven in isolation:

  • Genetic
    • Positive familial history for scoliosis in 30% (not predictive of severity)
  • Connective tissue disorder
    • Associated with several connective tissue disorders (including Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, etc.)
    • Alterations in connective tissue of the spine, paraspinous muscles, and platelets
    • May be related to osteopenia (decreased bone mineral density) of vertebral bodies
  • Neurologic (equilibrium system)
    • Abnormalities noted in vestibular, ocular, proprioceptive, and vibratory functions
  • Hormonal
    • Lower levels of melatonin secreted from pineal body in those with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis
    • Growth hormone: more of an influential factor than an etiologic factor in studies
    • Vertebral growth abnormalities
    • Asymmetric growth rates between the right and left sides of the spine

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Connective tissue disorders, including Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Neuromuscular conditions, including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy, Friedreich ataxia, etc.
  • If any of these conditions are present, the diagnosis is no longer idiopathic.

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Cabana, Michael D., editor. "Scoliosis (Idiopathic)." Select 5-Minute Pediatrics Topics, 7th ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2015. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/Select-5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/14026/all/Scoliosis__Idiopathic_.
Scoliosis (Idiopathic). In: Cabana MD, ed. Select 5-Minute Pediatrics Topics. 7th ed. Wolters Kluwer Health; 2015. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/Select-5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/14026/all/Scoliosis__Idiopathic_. Accessed April 18, 2019.
Scoliosis (Idiopathic). (2015). In Cabana, M. D. (Ed.), Select 5-Minute Pediatrics Topics. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/Select-5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/14026/all/Scoliosis__Idiopathic_
Scoliosis (Idiopathic) [Internet]. In: Cabana MD, editors. Select 5-Minute Pediatrics Topics. Wolters Kluwer Health; 2015. [cited 2019 April 18]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/Select-5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/14026/all/Scoliosis__Idiopathic_.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Scoliosis (Idiopathic) ID - 14026 ED - Cabana,Michael D, BT - Select 5-Minute Pediatrics Topics UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/Select-5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/14026/all/Scoliosis__Idiopathic_ PB - Wolters Kluwer Health ET - 7 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -