When Spines Throw a Curve: Treating Adult Scoliosis

BY Katie Charles
New York Daily News
April 1st 2009

Dr. Sean E. McCance, co-director of spine surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital, treats adult scoliosis in both men and women.
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As co-director of orthopedic spine surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, McCance diagnoses patients with spine disorders and spends much of his week in the operating room. In spine surgery for 13 years, McCance performs more than 250 operations annually.


Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that can lead to impingement and back pain. It is very common, though in most cases the curves are small enough that they produce no symptoms and go undiagnosed. “Some studies have shown that as much as 5% of the population may have scoliosis, many of them with milder curves so they don’t even know, “ says McCance. Adult degenerative scoliosis usually affects people in their 40s or 50s who start developing a curvature of the spine because of disk degeneration. “Due to arthritis, the joints become loose or lax, and the spine starts to collapse, leading to curvature of the spine and compression of the nerves,” says McCance, “You can think of the spine as a column around a tube. If the column collapses, the nerves inside the tube get bent and compressed.”

Childhood scoliosis is more common in girls than in boys, but adult degenerative scoliosis affects both men and women. People with spinal problems in their family are at higher than usual risk. “Some people have a family history of spine problems and disk degenerations,” says McCance, “but we haven’t been able to firmly identify the genetic component.” More…