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Failure To Timely Diagnose Scoliosis

Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Kentucky

Scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine that affects about 6 million people in the United States. Scoliosis generally occurs in children between the ages of 10 and 15, but it can be diagnosed in children or adults. Scoliosis requiring treatment is eight times more prevalent in girls than in boys. Scoliosis is also more common in patients having a family history of scoliosis.

The most common type of scoliosis in Kentucky and elsewhere is called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis has no known cause. Idiopathic scoliosis is usually determined by a doctor as a routine part of a physical or regular well-child check-up. Pediatricians and family doctors perform a visual test of the patient’s spine to look for any abnormality.

The most common test used is the Adams Forward Bend Test. In this test the child bends forward with straight legs and arms reaching to the ground as the physician observes the spine to see any abnormal curves or humps. If this observation (or any other visual test) yields any suspicion of scoliosis then the doctor will issue orders for an X-Ray. The X-Ray will confirm if curvature exists and the measurement of the curve. Typically a curve of about 20 degrees in a child or teen will warrant medical attention.

Medical treatment will depend on the age or skeletal maturity of the patient and the degree of the curve. A treatment plan may include ongoing observation (usually every six months), bracing or surgery. Bracing is often the recommended treatment plan when the patient has a moderate curvature and is still growing.

Bracing will not usually correct the curve, but bracing is believed by many to often stop the curve from progressing. If scoliosis is identified and treated while still in the 'moderate' stage, the need for surgery may be completely averted. If the curvature is significant and the patient has reached (or nearly reached) physical "skeletal" maturation, surgery may be the best option.

Untreated scoliosis can result in deformity and severe back pain and arthritis in later life. The misalignment of the spine causes posture issues that can adversely affect the back, shoulders, neck, hips and legs. Sometimes severe scoliosis can result in constricted lungs creating breathing problems. Surgery can often correct and prevent the progression of scoliosis. Most surgeries will involve the fusion of the vertebrae with the use of steel rods and bone grafts.

While the surgery has a high success rate, scoliosis surgery can have long-term effects on patients, including:

  • Spinal fusion disease
  • Failed fusion
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Back pain and radiating nerve pain
  • Disk degeneration
  • Height loss
  • Uneven shoulders and back
  • Risk of corrosion of rods and hardware
  • Potential need for future surgery
  • Nerve damage and other nerve injuries (loss of sensation)
  • Flat-back syndrome (the collapse of the disks below the fusion)

Scoliosis in children is a condition that can be treated or controlled if caught by a medical professional in the early stages. Scoliosis should be part of a well-child check up or any physical evaluation done by a doctor, especially during the ages of 10 to 15. If scoliosis is caught before the spinal deformation is severe, it can often be treated without invasive surgery.

If your child has suffered complications resulting from a doctor failing to diagnose scoliosis, then contact the Kentucky medical malpracticeattorney at Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC at (502) 242-8877or via our contact form.

Brett’s office is in Louisville, but he handles medical malpractice cases across the state of Kentucky. Brett will help determine if the appropriate actions were taken by your doctor in meeting the required standard of medical care.

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