Scoliosis and kyphoscoliosis

James O Sanders MD (Dr. Sanders of the University of Rochester owns stock in Abbott Labs, General Electric, and Hospira.)
Michael V Johnston MD, editor. (

Dr. Johnston of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer at Kennedy Krieger Institute has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Originally released October 17, 2011; last reviewed January 28, 2016; expires January 28, 2019


Scoliosis and kyphosis are deformities of the spine occurring from multiple etiologies that may present with or without other symptoms. The author provides background knowledge necessary for neurologists seeing patients with spinal deformity from various etiologies, including the differential diagnosis, treatment alternatives, and potential neurologic issues.

Key points


• Scoliosis, a coronal plane curvature of the spine, is common to a number of neuromuscular diseases.


• Idiopathic scoliosis is a diagnosis of exclusion, but has stereotypical characteristics distinguishing it from known neuromuscular causes.


• Patients who do not have typical characteristics of idiopathic scoliosis and no known neuromuscular disorder require further evaluation, including spinal MRI.

Historical note and terminology

Scoliosis and kyphoscoliosis are common deformities with many etiologies, including congenital malformations, neuromuscular disease, skeletal dysplasias and syndromes, and idiopathic etiologies. The deformities range from minor and unimportant to severe and life-threatening.

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