Screening for scoliosis: different countries’ perspectives and evidence-based health care

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Abstract

Idiopathic scoliosis affects 2–3% of adolescents. Large, progressing deformities, mostly present in girls, may lead to pulmonary complications, pain symptoms, the feeling of social isolation, and even mental disorders. The correlation of screening programs with surgery rate reduction and the clinical effectiveness of bracing remain a matter of debate. Critics indicate overdetection, qualification for therapy of insignificant curves, unjustified treatment, and risks of psychological side effects, whereas supporters underline the need for screening, and suggest improvements. It remains unclear whether such opposite opinions are based on sound evidence. To identify relevant studies, guidelines, and recommendations, MEDLINE, Google Scholar, and Cochrane Library databases were searched. The levels of evidence presented in selected studies and grading of recommendations reported in available guidelines and recommendation statements were assessed using the SIGN scoring system. Screening programs are legislated, recommended, or not recommended in different American states. British and Canadian screening recommendations do not mention scoliosis; Australian boards recommend against scoliosis screening programs. Other publications such as Singapore, Turkish, and Malaysian publications underline the cost-effectiveness and clinical importance of the procedures. Different Greek authors postulate the benefits and harms caused by the programs to many schoolchildren. Such a polarity illustrates the topicality of the quality of scientific evidence analyses and the significance of the grading of the recommendations process. It appears that critical opinions often result from implementing such analyses, whereas those supporting the programs tend to value the importance of expert opinions.

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