Isico blog the Isico blog that gives patients a voice!

Over the past 13 years or more, we have published dozens of posts and thousands of comments on our forum dedicated to scoliosis.
The Isico forum is a dedicated space where patients can ask questions and swap experiences, but it is also a place where those involved in treating scoliosis can take a more in-depth look at a series of topics and also engage with patient.  Here is one of our published posts.

Degrees and centimetres: is there a correlation?

Could there be a correlation, in scoliosis, between curvature and height? In other words, is it possible to identify a relationship, even approximate, between Cobb degrees and height loss in centimetres?

Several mathematical formulas with which to calculate the number of centimetres lost due to scoliotic curvature(s) of the spine have been published in the international scientific literature.

Such calculations also take into account the relationships between height when seated (trunk-head height) and height when standing.

The published studies dealing with this topic evaluated scoliosis populations — the samples recruited numbered between 140 and 1500 individuals — and they reported average height losses of 3.38 cm for females and 2.86 cm for males.

The formulas that give us the most valid estimates of height loss are those of Kono and Stokes. These formulas suggest that a scoliotic curve measuring 80° leads to a height loss of between 3.5 and 5.5 cm, and that this rises to between 4.5 and 8.5 cm in the presence of a 100° curve. The greater the scoliotic curve, the more the estimates provided by these two due formulas differ; for smaller curves, on the other hand, their results are superimposable.

As explained by Dr Francesca Di Felice, a specialized physiatrist at Isico, “patients with severe curves often ask surgeons how their condition will affect their height, albeit framing their question in terms of height gain as opposed to loss, i.e. “how many centimetres in height will I gain thanks to surgery?” The answer to this question will be even less precise; after all, there are many factors involved — too many to allow reliable pre-operative predictions of this kind”.

Another question that patients often ask concerns aging, namely, whether, with the overall physical decline that accompanies advancing age, a mild scoliotic curve (less than 30°) is likely to get worse and turn them into the stereotypical elderly person bent over a walking stick.

“This is a question that can only be answered in general terms” Dr Di Felice says. “People whose curves measure around 30° when they finish growing have a very low risk of the condition worsening in future decades. But this is rather like someone with slightly raised cholesterol or high blood pressure asking whether they will suffer a heart attack in a few decades’ time. High cholesterol levels, systemic hypertension and a sedentary lifestyle, as well as other factors, are associated with a higher cardiovascular risk, but

but it is impossible to translate disease risk estimates into a clear prediction for an individual person. In terms of prevention, adults with scoliotic curves of up to 30° are advised to engage in regular physical activity in order to maintain good fitness and general muscle tone, and thus counteract the compressive and worsening effects of gravity on the curve over time”.


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