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by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Diagnosis of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is often found during a routine school testing or an exam. A study is done to measure the curve. A child will be checked often to see whether the curve changes and if it needs to be treated.
These tests may be done:
Forward bend test—With feet and knees together, the child is asked to bend down with arms dangling. The person testing will stand behind the child and then in front to check for any curve or any uneven look in the rib cage, hipbones, or shoulder blades.
Inclinometer or scoliometer —This tool measures the amount of curve in the upper and lower back. The child will be asked to stand with feet and knees together, and bend down until the curve in the top of the back is seen and measured. Then the child will be asked to lean over more so the curve in the lower back is seen and measured.
Back x-rays—This is the best method. The x-ray can find scoliosis and the Cobb method can be used to find out how much curve a child has.
MRI scan —MRI scans can be used to find and watch for changes, but they are costly and no more helpful than x-rays. MRI scans are often done in those who may have some other problem with the back.


Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116647/Adolescent-idiopathic-scoliosis. Updated June 1, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2019.
Congenital scoliosis and kyphosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T908760/Congenital-scoliosis-and-kyphosis. Updated January 19, 2016. Accessed July 24, 2019.
Idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/idiopathic-scoliosis-in-children-and-adolescents. Updated March 2015. Accessed July 24, 2019.
Infantile and juvenile idiopathic scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T908759/Infantile-and-juvenile-idiopathic-scoliosis. Updated March 5, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2019.
Scoliosis in children and adolescents. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/scoliosis. Updated December 30, 2015. Accessed July 24, 2019.

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