Burden of Childhood Scoliosis


Lead Author(s): 

Michael D. Daubs, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Resource Utilization

Because of the low prevalence of scoliosis in children and adolescents, it is difficult to analyze the healthcare impact on the US healthcare system from this condition. However, the impact of scoliosis over a lifetime due to pain, inability to work, and cost to the healthcare system are substantial.

In 2013, one in three (35%) healthcare visits with a diagnosis of scoliosis was for a person under the age of 18. Most visits, 93% of the 681,100, were classified as idiopathic scoliosis. The majority (93%) of all visits with a diagnosis of scoliosis by persons under age 18 were outpatient visits to either an outpatient clinic or physician office. Only 3.5% represented hospital discharges; however, this still accounted for 23,800 discharges for this often painful condition in children and adolescents. (Reference Table 2B.2.2 PDF CSV)

Surgical Procedures

In 2013, 40% of children and adolescents under the age of 18 years discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of scoliosis had surgery. Spinal fusion was the most common surgery performed (36.1%), followed by incision/excision (24.6%), and deformity monitoring (9.6%). One in seven (15%) also had a blood transfusion. (Reference Table 2B.5.2 PDF CSV)


Hospital Charges and Length of Stay

Average hospital charges for patients under 18 years of age with a scoliosis diagnosis in 2013 were five times the average charge for all hospitalized patients in this age group ($113,800 versus $22,400), even though the length of stay was only about 50% longer (6.4 days versus 3.9 days). The high number of surgical procedures likely accounted for some of this variance. The length of stay and mean charges were slightly higher for those with an acquired/secondary scoliosis diagnoses than for those with an idiopathic scoliosis diagnosis. (Reference Table 2B.3.2 PDF CSV)


Discharge Status

Young people under the age of 18 with scoliosis are four times more likely to be transferred to a long-term care facility and three times more likely to have home healthcare than peers discharged for any diagnosis although the rates are still lower than among older persons (3% and 9%, respectively). (Reference Table 2B.4.2 PDF CSV)


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