- Mild Scoliosis (less than 20 degrees). Mild scoliosis is not serious and requires no treatment other than monitoring.
- Moderate Scoliosis (between 25 and 70 degrees). It is still not clear whether untreated moderate scoliosis causes significant health problems later on.
- Severe Scoliosis (over 70 degrees). If the curvature exceeds 70 degrees, the severe twisting of the spine that occurs in structural scoliosis can cause the ribs to press against the lungs, restrict breathing, and reduce oxygen levels. The distortions may also cause dangerous changes in the heart.
- Very Severe Scoliosis (Over 100 degrees). Eventually, if the curve reaches over 100 degrees, both the lungs and heart can be injured. Patients with this degree of severity are susceptible to lung infections and pneumonia. Curves greater than 100 degrees increase mortality rates, but this problem is very uncommon in America.
EFFECTS ON BONES
SPINE PROBLEMS IN PREVIOUSLY TREATED SCOLIOSIS PATIENTS
- Spinal fusion disease. Patients who are surgically treated with fusion techniques lose flexibility and may experience weakness in back muscles due to injuries during surgery.
- Disk degeneration and low back pain. With disk degeneration, the disks between the vertebrae may become weakened and rupture. In some patients, particularly those treated with the first generation of the Harrington rods, years after the original surgeries the weight of the instrumentation can cause disk and joint degeneration severe enough to require surgery. Treatment may involve removal of the old rods and extension of the fusion into the lower back. Still, most patients do not experience significant back pain from these problems.
- Height loss. Fusion of the spine may inhibit growth somewhat. However, much of the growth takes place in long bones, which are not affected.
- Lumbar flatback. This condition is most often the result of a scoliosis surgical procedure called the Harrington technique, which eliminated lordosis (the inward curve in the lower back). Adult patients with flatback syndrome tend to stoop forward. They may experience fatigue and back and even neck pain.
- Rotational trunk shift (uneven shoulders and hips).