What treatment is best for adult scoliosis?

January 26, 2011 9:45:54 AM PST
The federal government has launched its first ever long term study of adult scoliosis. The goal is to find out which treatments work best.

Some doctors say they already know the answer.

Julia Eppler's back problems used to ruin her backstitch.

"I've had back pain since I was 14," Eppler said.

Diagnosed at age 20 with adult scoliosis, her spine's curve grew from 24 degrees to 54. Attempts at physical therapy and injections failed.

"It was very frustrating and I felt very limited," said Eppler.

Half a million people have adult scoliosis in the U.S., and 40 percent will feel more pain each year.

"Many people, as the spine begins to age, and the discs degenerate, begin to experience more back and even leg pain," said Charles C. Edwards II, MD, The Maryland Spine Center.

A new study shows spinal surgery may be the only true option. Therapy, braces and pain injections don't hold up long term for most. Still, the U.S. spends $860 billion a year on these remedies.

"While we may try medicines and injections first, oftentimes we will move onto surgery because those other methods just are not making a difference for them," said Dr. Edwards.

The study shows operative patients saw a significant boost in function and quality of life. That includes patients from 40 to 80 years old. Non-operative patients reported no improvement at all.

"I no longer have this sharp, burning, debilitating pain," said Eppler.

Eppler's decompression and fusion surgery worked ? and her spine works just fine now.

"The difference has been remarkable," Eppler said.

The reward, simply sitting ? and sewing.

Six centers across the U.S. are currently involved in the government's adult scoliosis study. All six centers are currently enrolling patients with results expected in 2015.

? For More Information, Contact:

Mr. Ryan Andrews
Research Assistant
(410) 539-3434