Scoliosis | Testing and Diagnosis

diagnosing scoliosis

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis. Scoliosis can be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes the curves are obvious, but in other cases, they aren’t immediately visible. Curves often aren’t painful and usually progress slowly, so they can be overlooked until a child approaches puberty. Detecting scoliosis early is most important for successful treatment.

Pediatricians, family physicians and some school programs routinely look for signs that scoliosis may be present. Once a problem is detected, doctors will use a medical and family history, physical exams and diagnostic tests to measure abnormal contours that indicate scoliosis and determine the:

  • shape of the curve (“S”- or “C”-shape; involvement of ribs and muscles)
  • location of the curve (upper [thoracic] spine; lower [lumbar] spine; or both [thoracolumbar])
  • direction of the curve (bend to left or right)
  • angle of the curve in degrees (Cobb angle)

What tests are used to diagnose scoliosis?

  • clinical exam
  • x-rays
  • EOS (a 3-D imaging technology the reduces radiation dose during the exam)