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US Preventive Services Task Force
Evidence Report
January 9, 2018

Screening for Adolescent Idiopathic ScoliosisEvidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

Author Affiliations
  • 1Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Kaiser Permanente Research Affiliates Evidence-based Practice Center, Seattle, Washington
  • 2Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Research Affiliates Evidence-based Practice Center, Portland, Oregon
JAMA. 2018;319(2):173-187. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11669

Importance  Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), a spinal curvature of 10° or more, is the most common form of scoliosis, with a prevalence of 1% to 3%. Curves progress in approximately two-thirds of patients with AIS before skeletal maturity, and large curves (>50°) may be associated with adverse health outcomes.

Objective  To systematically review evidence on benefits and harms of AIS screening for the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

Data Sources  Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, ERIC, PubMed, CINAHL, and relevant systematic reviews were searched for studies published from January 1966 to October 20, 2016; studies included in a previous USPSTF report were also reviewed. Surveillance was conducted through July 24, 2017.

Study Selection  Fair- and good-quality studies that evaluated the accuracy of screening children and adolescents aged 10 to 18 years for AIS, the benefits of AIS treatment, the harms of AIS screening or treatment, or long-term health outcomes.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Two investigators independently reviewed abstracts and full-text articles and extracted data into evidence tables. Results were qualitatively summarized.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Health outcomes and spinal curvature in adolescence and adulthood, accuracy of screening for AIS, any harm of AIS screening or treatment.

Results  Fourteen studies (N = 448 276) in 26 articles were included. Accuracy of AIS screening was highest (93.8% sensitivity; 99.2% specificity) in a cohort study of a clinic-based program using forward bend test, scoliometer, and Moiré topography screening (n = 306 082); accuracy was lower in cohort studies of 6 programs using fewer modalities (n = 141 161). Four controlled studies (n = 587) found evidence for benefit of bracing on curve progression compared with controls. A randomized clinical trial and a nonrandomized trial of exercise treatment (N = 184) found favorable reductions in Cobb angle of 0.67° to 4.9° in the intervention group compared with increases of 1.38° to 2.8° in the control group. Two cohort studies (n = 339) on long-term outcomes found that braced participants reported more negative treatment experience and body appearance compared with surgically treated or untreated participants. A study that combined a randomized clinical trial and cohort design (n = 242) reported harms of bracing, which included skin problems on the trunk and nonback body pains. There was no evidence on the effect of AIS screening on adult health outcomes.

Conclusions and Relevance  Screening can detect AIS. Bracing and possibly exercise treatment can interrupt or slow progression of curvature in adolescence. However, there is little or no evidence on long-term outcomes for AIS treated in adolescence, the association between curvature at skeletal maturity and adult health outcomes, the harms of AIS screening or treatment, or the effect of AIS screening on adult health outcomes.