The Association of Spine Surgeons of India (ASSI) has launched a major scoliosis screening program for school children in various cities across the country. The project aims to increase early identification and spread awareness of spinal deformity.
Spinal deformities characterized by abnormal curvature of the spine are usually found in children below 14 years of age. However, due to lack of awareness and absence of medical screenings, late presentation of disease remains a major problem in India.
Under the project, ASSI aim to reach out to around 10,000 kids in each city. The data will be used to study the prevalence of spinal deformity in India, while identifying kids who need medical intervention.
“The nationwide screening program aims to reach around 1 to 1.5 lakh school children in two years. While the first phase will target schools in 14 cities including Mumbai, thereby the screening program is expected to be extended to other cities also.”, says Dr H S Chhabra, President, ASSI and Chief of Spine Service & Medical Director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi.
ASSI also plans to launch an e-learning programme for consumers and one part of it will be on spinal deformities which would enable common people to identify spinal deformity.
Several online applications such as Scoliometer and Angle meter are available for people to check for spinal deformities themselves. The ASSI awareness program will also educate parents about their availability and usage, added Dr. Chabbra.
Early identification of abnormality increases treatment options and helps reduce the progression of deformity as the child grows. ASSI also recommends that all children between 10 to 14 years of age be screened for spinal abnormality.
Spinal deformities such as scoliosis and kyphosis need to be identified early so that effective intervention can be undertaken to prevent deformity progression which can affect a person’s appearance as well as health.
Scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine is the most common spine deformity in the pediatric population. Other less common curvatures include lordosis – an accentuated forward curvature of the lower spine, and kyphosis – a rounding of the upper spine. In the absence of medical screening, Kyphosis is often confused with poor posture in children when it actually is a structural deformity.
“Lack of awareness remains a major challenge and is a major factor behind late identification of the condition. With the development of curvatures occurring most often between 10-18 years, it is important that it is detected in early adolescence. Notably, curve progression occurs at rates 7-8 times higher in girls than boys,” says Dr Shankar Acharya, President-Elect, ASSI, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.
Recent advances in spine surgery such as neuromonitoring, navigation, robotic technology and minimally invasive surgery have helped make spinal surgery highly safe and effective today. Innovations in spine care and deformity surgery have also helped significantly improve outcomes in affected people.
In the first phase, ASSI has reached out to schools in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Lucknow, Patna,Kolkata, Ahemdabad, Pune, Trivandrum and Hyderabad.
Under the drive, parents and children will be educated on the subject and spine screening will be conducted for children who consent to participate in the study. The spine examination will be conducted by medical officers or nurses at the school after they are trained by the ASSI task force member of the city. Free counseling of the parents by the concerned spine surgeon (task force member) will be facilitated and treatment process initiated where required.