A population-based study of school scoliosis screening

JAMA. 1999 Oct 20;282(15):1427-32. doi: 10.1001/jama.282.15.1427.


Context: Although school-based screening programs for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis are mandated in 26 states in the United States, few program outcomes data exist regarding the effectiveness of such programs.

Objective: To determine the effectiveness of a community-based school scoliosis screening program.

Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective cohort study of children who attended kindergarten or first grade at public or private schools in Rochester, Minn, during 1979-1982. Children were followed up until age 19 years or until they left the school district.

Main outcome measures: Number of children diagnosed and treated for scoliosis, based on results from scoliosis screenings performed annually in grades 5 through 9, linked to community medical records data; performance characteristics of the screening program.

Results: Of the 2242 children screened, 92 (4.1 %) were referred for further evaluation. Of these, 68 (74%) had documented medical or chiropractic evaluation of scoliosis. School screening identified 5 of the 9 children treated for scoliosis but resulted in referrals for another 87 children who were not treated. The cumulative incidence of diagnosed scoliosis in this population was 1.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2%-2.3%) for curves of more than 10 degrees, 1.0% (95% CI, 0.6%-1.5%) for curves of at least 20 degrees, and 0.4% (95% CI, 0.1 %-0.6%) for curves of 40 degrees or more; 0.4% (0.5% of girls and 0.3% of boys) were treated for scoliosis. The positive predictive value of the school screening program for the identification of treated scoliosis was 0.05 (95% CI, 0.048-0.052), with 448 children needed to screen to identify 1 child who subsequently received treatment. The percent positive agreement across consecutive years of screening varied from 7% to 30%.

Conclusion: In this population, school scoliosis screening identified some children who went on to receive treatment but referred many more who did not. These data should be considered in making decisions regarding school scoliosis screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Minnesota
  • Program Evaluation
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Schools
  • Scoliosis / prevention & control*
  • Scoliosis / therapy
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States