Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) - an indication for surgery? A systematic review of the literature

Disabil Rehabil. 2008;30(10):799-807. doi: 10.1080/09638280801889717.


Purpose: Historically, the treatment options for AIS, the most common form of scoliosis are: Exercises, in-patient rehabilitation, braces and surgery. While there is evidence in the form of prospective controlled studies that Scoliosis Intensive Rehabilitation (SIR) and braces can alter the natural history of the condition, there is no review on prospective controlled trials for surgical treatment. The aim of this review was to perform a systematic search of the Pub Med literature to reveal the evidence on scoliosis surgery.

Methods: A systematic review has been performed using the Pub Med database. 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.

Results: No controlled study, not in the short, mid or long term, searched within the review, has been found to reveal evidence to support the hypothesis that the effects of surgery as a treatment option for AIS is superior to natural history.

Conclusions: No evidence has been found in terms of prospective controlled studies to support surgical intervention from the medical point of view. In the light of the unknown long-term effects of surgery and in concluding on the lack of evidence already found that surgery might change the signs and symptoms of scoliosis, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) is long overdue. Until such a time that such evidence exists, there can be no medical indication for surgery. The indications for surgery are limited for cosmetic reasons in severe cases and only if the patient and the family agree with this.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Internal Fixators / adverse effects
  • Scoliosis / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects*
  • Spinal Fusion / instrumentation