Study design: Retrospective analysis of outcome in terms of prevalence of surgery for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in patients receiving conservative management.
Objectives: To determine whether a centre with an active policy of conservative management has fewer patients who eventually undergo surgery for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis than a centre where the practice is non-intervention.
Background data: The efficacy of orthoses for the treatment of idiopathic scoliosis was called into question in a recent publication. Because the prevalence of surgery in an untreated group of patients (28.1%) was not significantly different from that in a braced group (22.4%), the authors concluded that bracing appears to make no difference. Based on prior experience, this conclusion is questioned.
Methods: Since 1991, bracing and physical therapy have been recommended for children with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis at a centre in Barcelona, Spain. The scoliosis database was searched for patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis who were at least 15 years of age at last review and who had adequate documentation of the Cobb angle. The prevalence of surgery was compared with that of published data from a centre where the practice is non-intervention.
Results: From a total of 106 braced cases out of which 97 were followed up, six cases (5.6%) ultimately underwent spinal fusion. A worst case analysis, which assumes that all nine cases that were lost to follow-up had operations, brings the uppermost number of cases that could have undergone spinal fusion to 15 (14.1%). Either percentage is significant statistically when compared to the 28.1% reported surgeries from the centre with the policy of non-intervention.
Conclusions: If conservative management does reduce the proportion of children with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis that require surgery, it can be said to provide a real and meaningful advantage to both the patients and the community. It is contended that conservative methods of treatment should never be ruled out from scoliosis management, because they can and do offer a viable alternative to those patients who cannot or will not opt for surgical treatment.