Scoliosis monitoring and treatment

Scoliosis is an abnormal, lateral (sideways) curve in the spine. Scoliosis happens in most boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It usually begins after they lose the ability to walk. Scoliosis can cause discomfort, especially when sitting, and increased problems with breathing.

The use of steroids, physical therapy, and the right seating support are important ways to prevent or reduce the effects of scoliosis. Scoliosis surgery tries to fix the scoliosis and keep the spine from curving more. The overall benefit of scoliosis surgery is not yet known, but studies suggest that surgery improves comfort and may also improve lung function. If a person with muscular dystrophy chooses not to have surgery or can’t have surgery, spinal braces may help him to be more comfortable.

How often to have monitoring, and what is involved

Regular monitoring is important. Different healthcare providers may have different monitoring plans, but many plans include regular scoliosis checks, especially after the loss of walking or if steroids are stopped. If scoliosis is found, healthcare providers may get sitting X-rays every 6 months. The healthcare provider also should refer the family to an experienced spinal surgeon soon after scoliosis is found, to discuss whether surgery is a good option.

To learn more:

  • “Orthopedics” section of the TREAT-NMD recommendations
  • Muntoni F, Bushby K, Manzur AY. Muscular Dystrophy Campaign Funded Workshop on Management of Scoliosis in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy 24 January 2005, London, UK. Neuromuscul Disord. 2006 16: 210-9.