Introduction: Adolescent idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) affects 2% to 3% of the population of which only 0.3% to 0.5% of affected patients will have a curvature of >20 degrees, the curve magnitude at which treatment is generally recommended. For AIS the current natural history data is limited and most of the information comes from a small body of literature from the University of Iowa.
Methods: The Iowa natural history studies began as retrospective reviews but beginning in 1976, the cohort was followed prospectively. Outcomes assessed in this group of patients included; mortality, pulmonary function, pregnancy-(effect of pregnancy on scoliosis and the effect of scoliosis on pregnancy), radiographic, curve progression, and osteoarthritis. In addition, validated questionnaires were used to evaluate back pain, pulmonary symptoms, general function, depression, and body image.
Results: Patients with untreated AIS can function well as adults, become employed, get married, have children, and grow to become active older adults. Unfortunately, untreated scoliosis may lead to increased back pain and pulmonary symptoms for patients with large thoracic curves. Patients with untreated AIS can also develop substantial deformity, and the cosmetic aspect of this condition cannot be disregarded.
Conclusions: The summary findings of this unique lifetime natural history of AIS patients provides patients and parents a solid evidence base upon which to make informed decisions.