Often learning your child has adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) takes a parent by surprise. Because AIS onset is related to age, your child may have passed one or more scoliosis evaluations in the past. The good news is that now more than ever, research exploring the cause of and genetic basis for AIS is more robust than ever, and there is a growing clinical interest among physicians who seek to help you successfully manage your child’s disease.
AIS is by far the most common type of scoliosis, affecting children between ages 10 to 18; it’s found in as many as 4 in 100 adolescents. In general, AIS curves progress during the rapid growth period of the patient. While most curves slow their progression significantly at the time of skeletal maturity, some, especially curves greater than 60o, continue to progress during adult-hood. Many theories exist with regard to the cause of AIS including hormonal imbalance, asymmetric growth and muscle imbalance. Although the cause of AIS remains elusive, we have methods of estimating the risk for curve progression of scoliosis and good methods of treatment.
“Idiopathic” means that the condition has no identifiable causes although significant research is ongoing, including the genetic basis for AIS. Approximately 30% of AIS patients have some family history of scoliosis, which would indicate a genetic connection. Many Scoliosis Research Society members are working to identify the genes that cause AIS, and this knowledge continues to expand at a rapid pace.
Patients with AIS typically have no pain or neurologic abnormalities (like weakness) and exhibit a normal appearance when viewed from the side, however, several visible symptoms are associated with AIS: