Imaging in the Diagnosis and Monitoring of Children with Idiopathic Scoliosis

Shu-Yan Ng*, Josette Bettany-Saltikov
Wanchai Chiropractic Clinic, 11/fl China Hong Kong Tower, 8 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

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© 2017 Ng and Bettany-Saltikov.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Wanchai Chiropractic Clinic, 11/fl China Hong Kong Tower, 8 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong; Tel: 852-39983208; E-mail:


The paper reviews the current imaging methods in the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Radiography is generally used in the initial diagnosis of the condition. Postero-anterior erect full spine radiograph is generally prescribed, and is supplemented by lateral full spine radiograph when indicated. To reduce the radiation hazard, only the area of interest should be exposed, and follow-up radiographs should be taken with as few projections as possible. When available, EOS® stereoradiography should be used. The radiation of the microdose protocol is 45 times less than that of the conventional radiography. Surface topography offers another approach to monitoring changes of curvatures in AIS patients. Recently, 3D ultrasound has been found to be able to measure the Cobb angle accurately. Yet, it is still in the early developmental stages. The inherent intrinsic and external limitations of the imaging system need to be resolved before it can be widely used clinically. For AIS patients with atypical presentation, computed tomography (CT) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required to assess for any underlying pathology. As CT is associated with a high radiation dose, it is playing a diminishing role in the management of scoliosis, and is replaced by MRI, which is also used for pre-operative planning of scoliosis.

The different imaging methods have their limitations. The EOS® stereoradiography is expensive and is not commonly available. The surface topography does not enable measurement of Cobb angle, particularly when the patient is in-brace. The 3D ultrasound scanning has inherent intrinsic technical limitation and cannot be used in all subjects. Radiography, however, enables diagnosis and monitoring of the adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). It is thus the gold standard in the evaluation and management of scoliosis curves.

Keywords: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, Imaging, Radiography, EOS®, 3D ultrasound imaging, Surface topography, Computed tomography, Magnetic resonance imaging.