How common is idiopathic scoliosis?

Updated: Dec 02, 2020
  • Author: Charles T Mehlman, DO, MPH; Chief Editor: Jeffrey A Goldstein, MD  more...
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Scoliosis is almost always discussed in terms of its prevalence (ie, the total number of existing cases within a defined population at risk). Rates may vary quite significantly based on what particular definition of scoliosis is used and what patient population is being studied. Several important studies are included below.

Stirling et al studied almost 16,000 patients aged 6-14 years in England and found the point prevalence of idiopathic scoliosis (Cobb angle >10°) to be 0.5% (76 of 15,799 patients). [44] The prevalence of scoliosis was highest (1.2%) in patients aged 12-14 years. [44] Data such as these have helped reiterate the idea that the focus of screening efforts should be on children in this age group. When smaller Cobb angle measurements have been accepted (eg, 6° or greater), a significantly higher scoliotic rate may be identified, such as the 4.5% rate reported by Rogala et al. [45] Other studies using the 10° definition of scoliosis have placed the overall prevalence in the 1.9-3.0% range. [46]

Scoliosis has been suggested to develop more frequently in children born to mothers who are aged 27 years or older. [47] One might hypothesize that gene fragility might be involved (eg, higher rate of infants with Down syndrome born to older mothers). The precise explanation as to why this might be the case has not been elucidated. In addition to this, no other authors have duplicated these results.

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