Adults who have late-onset idiopathic scoliosis(LIS), a curvature of the spine diagnosed after the age ten, have been found to lead normal, productive lives, contrary to earlier belief that the condition increases mortality rates in general or from cardiac or pulmonary conditions potentially related to the curvature. Researchers from the University of Iowa in a 50-year study have found that adults with LIS appear to experience only little physical impairment apart from back pain and cosmetic concerns.
The study involved 444 patients diagnosed with scoliosis between 1932 and 1948, whose follow-ups started from 1992. Researchers compared 117 of those patients who were not treated for their condition to people without scoliosis who where similar in age and gender. They found that 22 patients out of 98 complained of shortness of breath during everyday activities compared to 8 out of 53 in the control group. About 66 scoliosis patients out of 109 reported chronic back pain compared to 22 out of 62 control participants. Among patients with pain, 48 out of 71 scoliosis patients and 12 out of 17 control participants reported only little or moderate back pain. Patients with a Cobb angle greater than 80 degrees showed an increased risk of shortness of breath. Researchers indicated that those patients with Cobb angles or spinal angles greater than 40 degrees needed to correct the curvature with braces or surgery to prevent deformity, pain and disability.
Researchers concluded that there was no evidence that LIS was linked to increased mortality rates and that only patients with thoracic apices and curves of more than 100 degrees are at increased risk of death.