Summing Up the Research on Lumbar Degenerative ScoliosisScoliosis describes an irregular, sideways curve of the spine. The condition is most common in adolescent girls, but it can develop in adults too. There are two types of scoliosis that affect adults. Idiopathic scoliosis develops for no obvious reason. Degenerative lumbar scoliosis happens along with degenerative changes in the lower spine and its supporting tissues. This second type most often occurs in people older than 50. This author reviews the medical literature on degenerative lumbar scoliosis. The article is a good overview for anyone who wants to understand current medical thinking about the condition.
The research shows that degenerative lumbar scoliosis most often appears with three types of degenerative changes, in a different pattern than idiopathic scoliosis. The condition seems to have different causes in different patients, and patients have a wide variety of symptoms. Some people have no problems at all, while others develop extreme pain and disability. Most people are somewhere in the middle.
The author notes that degenerative lumbar scoliosis can be difficult to diagnose in a physical exam. X-rays or other imaging tests are needed to give a clear picture of the condition of the spine. The author also notes that doctors must tailor treatments for the individual's symptoms, taking into account age and other medical conditions. The article lists the many nonsurgical treatment options, stressing the importance of regular exercise and detailing the drugs that can be helpful. The authors note that braces and physical therapy are useful only in some situations.
The author also summarizes the different surgical procedures that have proven effective in treating the symptoms of degenerative lumbar scoliosis. The author notes that, while surgery is often necessary, complication rates in studies range from 20 percent to 40 percent, and there is a high rate of revision surgery.
Clifford B. Tribus, MD. Degenerative Lumbar Scoliosis: Evaluation and Management. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. May/June 2003. Vol. 11. No. 3. Pp. 174-183.
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