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Adult Spinal Deformities

Most cases of scoliosis, or a sideways curvature of the spine, are congenital, but it isn’t uncommon for men and women over age 18 to develop spinal deformities.

For patients experiencing lasting pain and symptoms, WakeMed’s skilled orthopaedists can use both medical and surgical options — taking advantage of the latest techniques and innovations.

Types and Causes of Adult Spinal Deformities

ortho spine Deformities

In many cases, spinal deformity develops in adolescence and gets worse with age. Osteoporosis and spondylolisthesis can also cause adult-onset spinal deformity.

There are two main types of adult spinal deformities: idiopathic scoliosis and degenerative scoliosis.

  • Idiopathic scoliosis develops in adolescence and worsens in adulthood due to disc degeneration. Patients usually have asymmetrical shoulders and a rib hump, and their lower back may be more prominent on the convex side of the spinal curvature.
  • Degenerative scoliosis occurs when discs begin to break down and collapse and arthritis sets into the facet joints.

Symptoms of Adult Spinal Deformities

In idiopathic scoliosis, patients often have no pain, but the resulting arthritis can cause bone spurs which can cause pain, stiffness and numbness in the legs.

In degenerative scoliosis, patients usually experience lower back pain, as well as pain, stiffness and numbness down the legs.

Diagnosing Adult Spinal Deformities

Our doctors take a detailed history of symptoms and conduct a thorough physical examination. We may order X-rays on the affected segments of spine, as well as the pelvis and hips.

Additional studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) myelography could also be ordered to assess instability and any neurological symptoms in the lower extremities.

Treating Adult Spinal Deformities

Many cases of adult spinal deformities require no treatment. But for patients with lasting leg pain or other arthritis- and pinched nerve-related symptoms, epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, or facet injections can be temporarily effective.

Surgery is often a last resort, reserved for patients who have debilitating pain or spinal imbalance.

While surgical options are riskier in adults than in teenagers, recent surgical technique advancements have made these procedures less invasive. Smaller incisions and use of computer-assisted navigation systems have improved the surgical process.

Make an Appointment

We welcome new patients. If you’d like to meet with one of WakeMed’s orthopaedists about adult spinal deformities, please make an appointment by calling us at 919-232-5020.