Medical professionals use a mind-boggling array of different terms to refer to scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine. On this blog, we frequently aim to put some of this arcane diagnostic jargon into layman's terms – see our posts on levoconvex scoliosis and thoracic hyperkyphosis, for example.

The tricky medical term that we'd like to look at today is thoracogenic scoliosis. At first glance, this phrase may look like it means the same thing as thoracic scoliosis – that is, a sideways curve in the 'thoracic' (upper/middle) region of your backbone.

But don't be tripped up! Thoracogenic scoliosis is a far more specific term than thoracic scoliosis, and they should not be used interchangeably.

So what is thoracogenic scoliosis?

According to the Scoliosis Research Society's Revised Glossary of Terms, thoracogenic scoliosis is a "spinal curvature attributable to disease or operative trauma in or on the thoracic cage".

In simpler terms, thoracogenic scoliosis is what we call a spinal curve that was caused by either surgery or a disease in the thoracic region (that is, the part of the body that's highlighted in the image below).

Thoracic Spine

This raises another question...

What can cause thoracogenic scoliosis?

There are several diseases and operations that can trigger the development of scoliosis. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • Thoracotomy (surgical operation). A thoracotomy involves opening up the patient's chest, usually to access vital organs such as the heart or lungs. Scoliosis very rarely results from a thoracotomy, but it can happen, as in this case where the patient developed scoliosis post-surgery as the result of her rib fusion.

  • Lymphoma (disease). Cancers such as lymphoma may, if they grow large enough, disrupt the spine and push it into a curved / skewed position.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat all types of scoliosis in patients of all ages. Click here to learn about our treatment methods, or if you'd like to arrange an initial consultation, please contact us today.

Doctors and other medical professionals use a lot of long words when describing scoliosis, to the point where some patients find it difficult to know exactly what they're being diagnosed with. You probably know that scoliosis is a sideways spinal curve, but would you understand what the doctor meant if - for example - they told you that you had mild thoracic dextroscoliosis?

To help you better grasp the terminology associated with scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine, we'd like to take a moment to break that mouthful down. If you want to know what 'mild thoracic dextroscoliosis' actually means, read on...

Mild

Let's start with the easy bit. The word 'mild' indicates that, as things stand, your spinal curve is not especially severe - although it may get worse over time. A mild case of scoliosis may not be visible to the casual observer, although other symptoms may still be present.

What counts as a 'mild' spinal curve?

Generally speaking, if your Cobb angle measurement is 20 degrees or less, you can be said to have 'mild' scoliosis (bear in mind that a curve of less than 10 degrees would not be classed as scoliosis at all). Note that the word 'mild' here only refers to the angle of the curve - a person with mild scoliosis may still experience a significant amount of pain, reduced flexibility, etc.

Thoracic

The next word is 'thoracic', which simply means that your spinal curve is located in the upper (thoracic) part of the spine, coloured red in the diagram below.

Thoracic Spine

If your curve is located in the lower part of the spine, you are said to have 'lumbar' scoliosis. When the curve encompasses vertebrae from both the thoracic and lumbar spine, that's called thoracolumbar scoliosis.

Dextroscoliosis

Finally, we come to the longest word of the three: 'dextroscoliosis'. This term is taken from the Latin word dexter, which simply means 'right' (as in the opposite of left); therefore, if you have a case of dextroscoliosis, you have a spine that curves to the right.

Dextroscoliosis vs. Levoscoliosis

As the image above shows, scoliosis that curves towards the left side of the body is known as levoscoliosis. If you're ever struggling to remember which is which, just remember that 'levoscoliosis' and 'left' both begin with the letter L.

Now, let's put it all together...

What does 'mild thoracic dextroscoliosis' mean?

If you have mild thoracic dextroscoliosis, you have:

  • A spinal curve measuring 10-20 degrees...
  • ...in the upper (thoracic) part of your spine...
  • ...that curves towards the right side of your body.

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In its most general sense, the word 'scoliosis' can be used to describe any sideways spinal curve with a Cobb angle of 10 degrees or more. But there are many different types of scoliosis, and the type you have depends on a number of different factors, one of which is the direction of the curve. For example, a curve to the right is properly known as dextroscoliosis, while a curve to the left is referred to as levoscoliosis.
 
Another key defining attribute is the location of the curve - that is, the part of the spine that's affected by scoliosis. The most common location for scoliosis is the thoracic spine (the upper/middle part of your backbone, coloured red in the illustration below). A curve in this region of the spine is known as thoracic scoliosis.
 
Thoracic Spine
 

About Thoracic Scoliosis

As mentioned above, the thoracic spine is the most common location for a scoliotic curve. Thoracic scoliosis more commonly presents itself as a curve to the right (dextroscoliosis), and as with all types of scoliosis, it is more common in female patients than in male patients.
 
Thoracic Scoliosis
X-ray of a patient with thoracic dextroscoliosis (a curve to the right in the thoracic region of the spine).
 
Because thoracic scoliosis affects the region of the spine that is connected to the ribcage, patients who suffer from this form of the condition often find that their ribcage becomes deformed/distorted as well as their spine. Indeed, an asymmetrical ribcage is often among the first signs that someone is affected by thoracic scoliosis. Uneven shoulder height is another frequently-seen symptom.
 

Curves in Other Regions of the Spine

Of course, the thoracic spine isn't the only area that can develop a scoliotic curve. The lower (lumbar) region of the spine can also be affected by this condition - a curve in the lower part of the spine is called lumbar scoliosis.
 
It is even possible to develop a curve that covers both the lumbar and thoracic spine. If your curve affects vertebrae from both portions of the spine, you may be said to have thoracolumbar scoliosis.
 
No matter which part of your spine is affected by scoliosis, the team here at Scoliosis SOS may be able to help you overcome the symptoms of your condition. If you would like to learn more about our non-surgical treatment methods and book an initial consultation at our clinic in London, please contact us today - we can also carry out consultations via Skype or over the phone if you live elsewhere.
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