What Is Kyphoscoliosis?

Scoliosis is a disorder characterized by the lateral or side bending of the vertebrae.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Kyphoscoliosis is a portmanteau word that combines the medical terms kyphosis and scoliosis, and which may also be written as scoliokyphosis in some literature. Each of these terms gives a key to the word’s definition. Scoliosis means lateral or side bending of the vertebrae, and kyphosis means a forward bend of the upper back, compressing vertebrae together and creating what can look like a hunch or hump. The matter gets confusing since some sources list kyphoscoliosis and kyphosis as synonyms, but in more reputable definitions, kyphosis doesn’t have to present with lateral or side to side curvatures of the spine.

Thus, kyphoscoliosis can be viewed as a relatively rare disorder, which may occur under a variety of circumstances. It can be associated with certain disease like Marfan’s syndrome or osteo imperfecta (brittle bone disease), or it may rarely occur in infancy. Some older adults may get it, and in particular people with osteoarthritis could be more prone to it. Kyphosis alone occurs much more often, but both conditions are potentially serious and may require treatment.

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The main symptoms of kyphoscoliosis could be some back pain, forward and side to side spine curvature, and hunching or humping of the back. Depending on the degree of forward bend, breathing can become impaired because the area where the lungs sit may be greatly compressed in size. With yet more serious cases, other symptoms could be present and these could include limited movement of certain areas of the body. Performing basic tasks might prove difficult when curvature is severe.

Pronounced kyphoscoliosis is not likely to be missed by a doctor, but certain scans, such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) might be required to look at degrees of curvature. Getting a sense of this degree may help determine treatment, but treatment also has to be analyzed based on cause of the condition. Not all remedies are the same or equally suited to all patients.

Some options for treatment for kyphoscoliosis include physical therapy, which may help to correct a small degree of curvature. There are other things that may be considered, and these would include using braces to stabilize and gradually correct bending. When curvature is extremely pronounced, another option is to perform surgery, which may straighten the spine in a variety of ways. Of the available methods for correcting the problem, surgery may carry the greatest risk of complications, but it may also be the most effective.

People with kyphoscoliosis that is moderate, severe or progressive do benefit from medical care. Professionals that may specifically treat this disorder include orthopedists and sometimes neurosurgeons, should surgery on the spine be required. Depending on cause of the disorder, folks may also need help from other specialists.

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