Epidemiology of scoliosis in cerebral palsy: A population-based study at skeletal maturity

J Paediatr Child Health. 2022 Feb;58(2):295-301. doi: 10.1111/jpc.15707. Epub 2021 Aug 28.


Aim: This study investigated the prevalence of scoliosis in a large, population-based cohort of individuals with cerebral palsy (CP) at skeletal maturity to identify associated risk factors that may inform scoliosis surveillance.

Methods: Young people with CP born between 1990 and 1992 were reviewed through routine orthopaedic review or a transition clinic. Classification of CP was recorded by movement disorder, distribution, gross and fine motor function. Clinical examination was undertaken and those with clinical evidence of scoliosis or risk factors had radiographs of the spine. Scoliosis severity was measured and categorised by Cobb angle.

Results: Two hundred and ninety-two individuals were evaluated (78% of the birth cohort) at a mean age of 21 years, 4 months (range 16-29 years). Scoliosis (Cobb angle >10°) was found in 41%, with strong associations to the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS), Manual Abilities Classification System (MACS) and dystonic/mixed movement disorders. Those at GMFCS V were 23.4 times (95%CI 9.9-55.6) more likely to develop scoliosis than those at GMFCS I. Severe curves (Cobb >40°, 13% of the cohort) were found almost exclusively in those functioning at GMFCS IV and V, and were 18.2 times (95%CI 6.9-48.5) more likely to occur in those with dystonia than those with spasticity.

Conclusions: Scoliosis was very common in young people with CP, with prevalence and severity strongly associated with GMFCS and MACS level and dystonic movement disorder. Severe curves were almost exclusively found in non-ambulant children. Clinical screening for scoliosis should occur for all children with CP, with radiographic surveillance focusing on those functioning at GMFCS IV and V.

Keywords: GMFCS; MACS; cerebral palsy; scoliosis; surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Palsy* / complications
  • Cerebral Palsy* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Movement
  • Radiography
  • Scoliosis* / complications
  • Scoliosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Scoliosis* / epidemiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spine