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Open Access Highly Accessed Case Report

Reversal of childhood idiopathic scoliosis in an adult, without surgery: a case report and literature review

William J Brooks1, Elizabeth A Krupinski2 and Martha C Hawes3*

Author Affiliations

1 Restorative Care Foundation, Kansas City, MO 64152, USA

2 Department of Radiology, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ 85724, USA

3 Division of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, School of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ 85721, USA

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Scoliosis 2009, 4:27  doi:10.1186/1748-7161-4-27

Published: 15 December 2009

Abstract

Background

Some patients with mild or moderate thoracic scoliosis (Cobb angle <50-60 degrees) suffer disproportionate impairment of pulmonary function associated with deformities in the sagittal plane and reduced flexibility of the spine and chest cage. Long-term improvement in the clinical signs and symptoms of childhood onset scoliosis in an adult, without surgical intervention, has not been documented previously.

Case presentation

A diagnosis of thoracic scoliosis (Cobb angle 45 degrees) with pectus excavatum and thoracic hypokyphosis in a female patient (DOB 9/17/52) was made in June 1964. Immediate spinal fusion was strongly recommended, but the patient elected a daily home exercise program taught during a 6-week period of training by a physical therapist. This regime was carried out through 1992, with daily aerobic exercise added in 1974. The Cobb angle of the primary thoracic curvature remained unchanged. Ongoing clinical symptoms included dyspnea at rest and recurrent respiratory infections. A period of multimodal treatment with clinical monitoring and treatment by an osteopathic physician was initiated when the patient was 40 years old. This included deep tissue massage (1992-1996); outpatient psychological therapy (1992-1993); a daily home exercise program focused on mobilization of the chest wall (1992-2005); and manipulative medicine (1994-1995, 1999-2000). Progressive improvement in chest wall excursion, increased thoracic kyphosis, and resolution of long-standing respiratory symptoms occurred concomitant with a >10 degree decrease in Cobb angle magnitude of the primary thoracic curvature.

Conclusion

This report documents improved chest wall function and resolution of respiratory symptoms in response to nonsurgical approaches in an adult female, diagnosed at age eleven years with idiopathic scoliosis.