Scoliosis and kyphoscoliosis

Daniel J Bonthius Jr BS (

Mr. Bonthius of the Medical University of South Carolina has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Hai Yao PhD (

Dr. Yao of Clemson University has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Daniel J Bonthius MD PhD (

Dr. Bonthius of the University of Iowa has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Michael V Johnston MD, editor. (

Dr. Johnston of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Originally released October 17, 2011; last reviewed June 12, 2020; expires June 12, 2023


Scoliosis and kyphosis are deformities of the spine in the coronal and sagittal planes, respectively. These spinal deformities arise from multiple etiologies and are commonly observed in patients with neurologic and neuromuscular disorders. In this updated article, the authors provide background knowledge helpful to neurologists caring for patients with spinal deformities. The biological basis for spinal deformities is discussed and the differential diagnosis, management, and potential neurologic complications are described.

Key points


• Scoliosis and kyphosis, which are curvatures of the spine in the coronal and sagittal planes, respectively, are common among patients with neurologic and neuromuscular diseases.


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


• Progression of scoliotic curves occurs most rapidly during phases of rapid linear body growth, particularly during infancy and adolescence.


• Scoliosis during infancy will usually resolve spontaneously.


• In adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis, bracing can substantially decrease the progression of high-risk curves to the threshold for surgery.


• 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 kyphosis were recognized by several ancient civilizations and were first described by the Greek physician Hippocrates. It wasn't until the mid-twentieth century that the first reliable treatments began to emerge, including the Milwaukee brace and Harrington rods. These treatments laid the foundation for modern scoliosis treatments today (Linker 2012).

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