Dr. Ashish Patel and Dr. Elian Shepherd are orthopedic specialists at the Methodist Physician Group Orthopedic and Spine Center in Merrillville, Indiana, with training that makes them uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat spine curvature disorders like scoliosis. Both of these experts work with their patients to find surgical and non-surgical interventions that can stop the progression of spinal curvature.
As the name suggests, doctors like Patel and Shepherd specialize in identifying and treating abnormalities of the spine that cause it to curve or distort. The spine, by design, is a straight column of stacked bones, called vertebrae, along with discs that work to separate them. The intricate architecture of the spine is what allows flexibility as a person walks, sits, and even exercises.
Scoliosis refers to a sideways curvature that can occur during a growth spurt right before a child reaches puberty. It's unclear why this happens in some children, but there are some significant risk factors such as:
For many people, scoliosis is mild and has little effect on their lives. For others, though, the curvature is extreme, interfering with their ability to move.
During a physical exam, Dr. Patel or Shepherd will look for specific symptoms of the condition such as uneven hips or shoulders. He may have the patient bend over to see if the rib cage appears uneven, as well. Imaging, however, is the final diagnostic test. Simple X-rays will show whether or not there’s scoliosis and help determine the degree of the curvature.
That depends on a number of factors, such as the age of the patient and other medical conditions. Mild scoliosis may only require monitoring to ensure it doesn't worsen with time. Left untreated, though, the spine may twist.
Some younger patients can benefit from braces designed to straighten the spine. The brace won’t reverse an existing curve, but it can prevent the problem from progressing. The brace fits close to the body and is worn at all times. Most of the time, a child can stop wearing the brace once the doctor determines the bones have stopped growing.
Surgery is also an option for severe cases of scoliosis. This generally involves spinal infusion, in which Dr. Patel or Dr. Shepherd connect at least two or more of the vertebrae together so they can no longer move independently.