Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: How Effective are Braces in Treatment?

There has been an on-going debate for the last 50 years in the Scoliosis community in regards to back braces and whether they actually work. Recently, there was a study  published in The New England Journal of Medicine which asked that very same question.

The study looked at date on 242 patients from 25 different places in the United States and Canada.  All the patients had spinal curvatures between 20 and 40 degrees, plus they were all between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. researchers analyzed data on 242 patients at 25 sites across the United States and Canada. The reason this age range was chosen to work with was because this is the age when most children are diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis and it is also the age range where most children experience growth spurts. Of the 242 patients, 116 families were chosen to wear a brace for 18 hours a day. Also, I think it should be mentioned that because there were so few families in the bracing group, there was an additional group of 126 adolescents who got to chose for themselves if they got to wear a brace. 

For the purposes of this study, bracing was categorized as a failure if the spinal curve progressed to at least 50 degrees. This was chosen because at the 50 degree mark surgery is typically suggested.  On the other hand, when the child reached  skeletal maturity and the curve had not reached the curve progressing to the 50 degree mark, then bracing was deemed a success.

And what do you think the study showed?

Well, the study was ended early because the effectiveness of wearing a brace was very apparent early in the study. When both groups were analyzed it was shown that  the rate of treatment success was 72 percent among children with bracing, while there was 48 percent treatment success among those under observation. The longer the brace was worn, the greater the benefit. The study showed that more than 90 percent of the children in the study who were successfully treated were the ones who wore their braces more than 13 hours a day..