What happens when scoliosis is left untreated?

Our paper entitled “The natural history of idiopathic scoliosis during growth: a meta-analysis” was published some months ago in the American Journal of Physical Rehabilitation.
The research focuses on 13 studies in the scientific literature that examine the natural history of idiopathic scoliosis, that is to say, the way scoliosis evolves in the absence of any treatment.

“We conducted a systematic search of the literature in order to identify all published studies dealing with the natural history of idiopathic scoliosis. Our aim was to pool the data in a meta-analysis that might provide insight into disease progression rates” explains Isico physiatrist Dr Francesca Di Felice.

The data in the studies included in our meta-analysis were collected from individuals affected by infantile, juvenile and adolescent forms of idiopathic scoliosis from the time of detection until they were fully grown: these individuals, observed over time, never received any treatment for the condition.

 “Some of the studies included, generally the oldest ones, presented methodological weaknesses, such as failing to provide systematic data on the size of scoliotic curves at the beginning and end of treatment, to distinguish clearly between juvenile and adolescent forms, or to consider outcomes other than rate of progression: aesthetics, humps and sagittal balance, for example” Dr Di Felice goes on. “The meta-analysis revealed high rates of progression for all the forms of idiopathic scoliosis, and the data on infantile scoliosis  showed the highest variability: suffice it to say that the three studies referring to that category showed progression rates ranging from 5 to 80%!

I would say there is now little prospect of adding to the available data on the natural history of scoliosis through new randomised studies, given that it has become impossible, from an ethical point of view, to leave scoliosis patients untreated”.