The treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) according to present evidence. A systematic review

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2008 Jun;44(2):177-93.


Traditionally, the treatment options for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), the most common form of scoliosis, are exercises; in-patient rehabilitation; braces and surgery. The outcomes of treatments are usually compared with the natural history or observation (non-intervention). The aim of this paper was to provide a synopsis of all treatment options in the light of evidence based practice (EBP). A systematic review was carried out using the most encompassing databases available. Literature has been searched for the outcome parameter ''rate of progression'' and only prospective controlled studies that have considered the treatment versus the natural history have been included. The search strategy included the following terms: ''adolescent idiopathic scoliosis''; ''idiopathic scoliosis''; ''natural history''; ''observation''; ''physiotherapy''; ''physical therapy''; ''rehabilitation''; ''bracing''; ''orthotics'' and ''surgery''. Prospective short-term studies have been found to support outpatient physiotherapy. One prospective controlled study was found to support scoliosis in-patient rehabilitation (SIR). One prospective multi-centre study, a long-term prospective controlled study and a meta-analysis have been found to support bracing. No controlled study, neither short, mid nor long-term, was found to reveal any substantial evidence to support surgery as a treatment for this condition. There is some evidence supporting the conservative treatment for AIS. No substantial evidence has been found in terms of prospective controlled studies to support surgical intervention. In light of the unknown long-term effects of surgery, a randomised controlled trial (RCT) seems necessary. Due to the presence of evidence to support conservative treatments, a plan to compose a RCT for conservative treatment options seems unethical. But it is also important to conclude that the evidence for conservative treatments is weak in number and length.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Braces
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Orthopedic Procedures
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Scoliosis / rehabilitation*