What is thoracic scoliosis?

Thoracic scoliosis is a form of scoliosis, a condition characterized by curvature of the spine, which is concentrated in the thoracic spine, the area of ​​the spine in the middle of the back. This is a common location for scoliosis, and it can be very problematic for the patient because the curvature can lead to deformities that impede breathing. For this reason, people are generally encouraged to closely monitor thoracic scoliosis and treat it if it appears to be progressing to a problematic stage.

There are several different causes for scoliosis. Many cases are idiopathic, meaning there is no known reason. In other cases, it can be caused by congenital problems and disease processes that can occur later in life. In the case of thoracic scoliosis, the bones in the middle of the spine begin to curve to the right, which also tends to push the rib cage out of position. If the curve is allowed to progress, the bones can become misshapen and the patient can develop postural problems, shortness of breath, and other complications.

When scoliosis is identified, the mildest treatments are physical therapy and exercise, designed to strengthen the spine and bring it back into alignment. If these measures are not effective or the scoliosis is too severe for them, bracing may be considered. When people with thoracic scoliosis wear a brace, the brace holds the spine in place and prevents further curvature. Wearing a brace can be awkward and uncomfortable, although brace technology has improved tremendously, making it more feasible for patients to adhere to the prescription, often requiring wearing a brace for long periods at a time. time.

Some cases of thoracic scoliosis progress too far for bracing, for a number of different reasons, or the curvature persists despite bracing, sometimes because the patient is having trouble adhering to the bracing regimen. In these cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the curvature. The surgery is performed by a spine surgeon and there are several surgical techniques to correct scoliosis. Patients may want to consult with several surgeons before deciding which one to work with to learn more about their options.

Children in many regions of the world are routinely screened for early signs of scoliosis. Their primary care providers may do regular checkups, and sometimes children are also screened at school as part of a public health initiative. This allows many cases of thoracic scoliosis to be detected early.

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