Curve Progression in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Does Not Match Skeletal Growth

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2018 Feb;476(2):429-436. doi: 10.1007/s11999.0000000000000027.


Background: Determining the peak growth velocity of a patient with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is important for timely treatment to prevent curve progression. It is important to be able to predict when the curve-progression risk is greatest to maximize the benefits of any intervention for AIS. The distal radius and ulna (DRU) classification has been shown to accurately predict skeletal growth. However, its utility in predicting curve progression and the rate of progression in AIS is unknown.

Questions/purposes: (1) What is the relationship between radius and ulna grades to growth rate (body height and arm span) and curve progression rate? (2) When does peak curve progression occur in relation to peak growth rate as measured by months and by DRU grades? (3) How many months and how many DRU grades elapse between peak curve progression and plateau?

Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of a longitudinally maintained dataset of growth and Cobb angle data of patients with AIS who presented with Risser Stages 0 to 3 and were followed to maturity at Risser Stage 5 at a single institute with territory-wide school screening service. From June 2014 to March 2016, a total of 513 patients with AIS fulfilled study inclusion criteria. Of these, 195 were treated with bracing at the initial presentation and were excluded. A total of 318 patients with AIS (74% girls) with a mean age of 12 ± 1.5 years were studied. For analysis, only data from initial presentation to commencement of intervention were recorded. Data for patients during the period of bracing or after surgery were not used for analysis to eliminate potential interventional confounders. Of these 318 patients, 192 were observed, 119 were braced, and seven underwent surgery. Therefore 192 patients (60.4%) who were observed were followed up until skeletal maturity at Risser Stage 5; no patients were lost to followup. The mean curve magnitude at baseline was 21.6 ± 4.8. Mean followup before commencing intervention or skeletal maturity was 4.3 ± 2.3 years. Standing body height, arm span, curve magnitude, Risser stage, and DRU classification were studied. A subgroup analysis of 83 patients inclusive of acceleration, peak, and deceleration progression phases for growth and curve progression was studied to determine any time lag between growth and curve progression. Results were described in mean ± SD.

Results: There was positive correlation between growth rate and curve progression rate for body height (r = 0.26; p < 0.001) and arm span (r = 0.26; p < 0.001). Peak growth for body height occurred at radius grade (R) 6 (0.56 ± 0.29 cm/month) and ulna grade (U) 4 (0.65 ± 0.31 cm/month); peak change in arm span occurred at R5 (0.67 ± 0.33 cm/month) and U3 (0.67 ± 0.22 cm/month); and peak curve progression matched with R7 (0.80 ± 0.89 cm/month) and U5 (0.84 ± 0.78 cm/month). Subgroup analysis confirmed that peak curve progression lagged behind peak growth rate by approximately 7 months or one DRU grade. The mean time elapsed between the peak curve progression rate and the plateau phase at R9 U7 was approximately 16 months, corresponding to two DRU grades.

Conclusions: By using a standard skeletal maturity parameter in the DRU classification, this study showed that the maximal curve progression occurs after the peak growth spurt, suggesting that the curve should be monitored closely even after peak growth. In addition, the period of potential curve continuing progression extends nearly 1.5 years beyond the peak growth phase until skeletal maturity. Future studies may evaluate whether by observing the trend of growth and curve progression rates, we can improve the outcomes of interventions like bracing for AIS.

Level of evidence: Level II, prognostic study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development
  • Age Factors
  • Body Height
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Radius / diagnostic imaging
  • Radius / growth & development*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Scoliosis / physiopathology*
  • Scoliosis / therapy
  • Spine / growth & development*
  • Ulna / diagnostic imaging
  • Ulna / growth & development*