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Scheuermann's Thoracic Kyphosis in the Adolescent Patient

Hart, Erin S.; Merlin, Gabriel; Harisiades, Jamie; Grottkau, Brian E.

doi: 10.1097/NOR.0b013e3181f83761
Original Manuscript

Scheuermann's thoracic kyphosis is a condition characterized by increased posterior rounding of the thoracic spine in association with structural deformity of the vertebral elements. It is a structural deformity of the spine that is classically characterized by anterior wedging of 5° or more of 3 adjacent thoracic vertebral bodies with kyphosis measuring greater than 45° between T5 and T12. The cause of the deformity remains unknown but it is believed to be multifactorial, and it likely has a genetic component as well. Most adolescent patients seek orthopaedic evaluation for increased rounding and deformity of the thoracic spine that is occasionally associated with back pain. Parental concerns are also often related to the cosmetic deformity and the progressive nature of the condition. Bracing has been demonstrated to be an effective nonsurgical treatment modality for the skeletally immature child and/or adolescent with a progressive deformity. Operative management has been advocated for adolescents with progressive kyphosis measuring over 70°, for those who have had progression despite bracing, for patients with intractable back pain, and also for patients with unacceptable cosmetic deformity. Surgical options include posterior spinal arthrodesis with or without anterior spinal release via thoractomy or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). This article will review the diagnosis, pathophysiology, physical examination findings, and the nonoperative and surgical treatment options for adolescent patients with Scheuermann's kyphosis of the thoracic spine.

Erin S. Hart, RN, MS, CPNP, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston.

Gabriel Merlin, Clinical Research Intern, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston, MA.

Jamie Harisiades, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston, MA.

Brian E. Grottkau, MD, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston, MA.

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© 2010 National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses