Physical capacity of girls with moderate scoliosis is considerably lower than girls without scoliosis


A new study in the European Spine Journal, published ahead of print, shows that girls aged 10–18 years with moderate scoliosis have considerably lower physical capacity scores than girls of the same age without scoliosis. However, girls with mild scoliosis do not appear to have lower physical capacity scores. 

The purpose of the new study was to assess the impact of curvature angle value, the number of vertebrae in curvatures, and the number of curvatures on the physical capacity (by measuring maximum oxygen input and output during the PWC170 test) of girls aged 10–18 with mild or moderate idiopathic scoliosis. This is because, at present, while studies have shown that untreated severe thoracic scoliosis is associated with increased mortality (related to right heart failure due to congestive lung disease), the effect that the earlier stages of scoliosis have on respiratory function is not fully understood.


Overall, 97 girls were included in the new study. Of these, 70 had scoliosis (42 with mild scoliosis, Cobb angle 10–24 degrees; 28 with moderate scoliosis, Cobb angle 25–40 degrees) and 27 did not. All of girls underwent the Physical Working Capacity 170 (PWC170) test on a cycle egometer, based on two five minute submaximum physical effort events.


Compared with the control group, all of the measured parameters were lower in the scoliosis group. However, the only significant difference observed was in output value obtained during the PWC170 test (1.52 PWC170 (W/Kg) for the scoliosis group vs. 1.68 PW170 (W/kg) for the control group; p=0.04). When the data from the scoliosis subgroups were analysed, girls with moderate scoliosis were found to have significantly lower maximum oxygen intake scores than the girls in the control group (1.91 V02max (1/min) vs. 2.02 V02max (1/min); p=0.02). The girls with moderate scoliosis also had significantly lower absolute PWC170 test scores and output value obtained during the PWC170 test scores than the control group (66.07 vs. 77.35, p=0.02; 1.41 vs. 1.68, p=0.003). There were no significant differences between the mild and control groups.


Both the number of vertebrae and the number of curves were found to significantly affect the output value obtained during the PWC170 test. Patients with nine or more vertebrae involved in the scoliosis had a PWC170 (W/kg) score of 1.46 compared with 1.68 in the control group (p=0.01) and patients with a double curve had a PWC170 score (W/kg) of 1.57 compared with the control group figure (p=0.01). However, neither the number of vertebrae involved in the scoliosis nor the number of curves seemed to significantly affect the maximum oxygen intake or the absolute PWC170 test score compared with the control group.


Dariusz Czaprowski, Faculty and Physiotherapy, Jozef Rusiecki University College in Olsztyn, Poland, and his fellow investigators reported: “We might expect the angle value to have a dominant impact on the physical capacity of girls with mild and moderate idiopathic scoliosis.”