What Is Scoliosis?

pediatric scoliosis spinal curveScoliosis is a progressive condition causing the spine to curve or twist into a “C” or “S” shape. Signs and symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulders, a prominence of the shoulder blade and waistline discrepancies. Scoliosis is reported to affect two to three percent of school-age children. It appears most often in adolescent girls (usually between the ages of 10-15) and has shown a tendency to run in families. There are many types of scoliosis, including:

  • Idiopathic scoliosis - The most common type which appears around age 10 - 15. Girls are eight times more likely to develop it than boys. Idiopathic simply means that we do not (yet) know what causes it. 
  • Early onset scoliosis - Occurs before the age of 5 and more often in boys
  • Congenital scoliosis - Present at birth when some parts of the spine are misshapen, such as having parts of extra vertebra or vertebra that have fused together where they are supposed to be separate
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis - Scoliosis caused by a neurological condition


Scoliosis and TSRHC

In April 2007, researchers at TSRHC identified the first gene - CHD7 - associated with idiopathic scoliosis. The gene discovery was the result of a 10-year study led by Carol Wise, Ph.D. and is outlined in the May 2007 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics. In 2011, Dr. Wise and TSRHC’s Molecular Genetics research team identified two additional genes - CHL1 and DSCAM - that give new insight into the condition. These discoveries and future research efforts through our Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay/Martha and Pat Beard Center for Excellence in Spine Research will help experts better understand the factors that lead to curve progression in children and teens and ultimately find genetic cause of scoliosis.

TSRH® Spinal Systems

In the mid-1980s, TSRHC researchers developed a surgical tool that does not require bracing or casting after surgery, thereby reducing recovery time. During this time, the TSRH® Spinal System became the most widely used implant system in the world for spinal deformity. In 2005, TSRHC modified its original spinal system to create the TSRH® SILO 5.5 Spinal System, which is smaller, more versatile and allows for improved treatment of scoliosis.


The most common form of scoliosis is idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause.

Despite some popular beliefs, scoliosis does not result from carrying heavy items, athletic activity, sleeping/standing postures, or minor lower limb length discrepancies. Researchers at TSRHC identified the first gene – CHD7 – associated with idiopathic scoliosis. They hope the discovery will one day lead to identifying the cause of the spinal curvature.

Scoliosis isn’t usually present at birth so its discovery is often made by a school nurse or your doctor.

Many schools screen adolescent girls for scoliosis and recommend a follow-up with your doctor. X-rays of the spine show an “S” or “C" shape. The severity of the curve is measured in degrees, which helps to determine the proper treatment for a patient.

The treatment for scoliosis usually depends on the severity of the curve.

Some people live their entire lives without knowing they have the condition. Others may need to be closely observed by a physician or require bracing to prevent the curve from progressing. In more severe cases, surgery is necessary to straighten the spine and prevent further progression of the curve.