Thoracic scoliosis refers to a sideways curve located in the middle (or thoracic) portion of the spine. Scoliosis occurs in the thoracic area more than in other areas.  These scoliosis patients notice changes to their chest, rib cage, and shoulder blades appearance.

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A condition known as Thoracic insufficiency syndrome involves chest wall deformities and can affect normal breathing and lung growth.

Thoracic Scoliosis Defined

Scoliosis X-rayOur doctors see Thoracic scoliosis in children between the ages of 10-15.  Most children get this type of scoliosis when they go through their first major growth spurt. It may also develop later in life as a result of muscle or connective tissue disorders and other degenerative conditions.

Because thoracic scoliosis affects the region of the spine that connects to the rib cage, many patients first become aware of the condition because of differences in the rib cage and shoulder blades, as well as uneven shoulder height.

Thoracic scoliosis occurs with a ‘C’ shaped curve in the middle section of the spine.  This area, known as the thoracic vertebrae, may develop on its own.  Or it may develop with other types of scoliosis, and when this happens it typically produces an ‘S’ shape in the spine as the two curves form in different directions.

Thoracic Scoliosis Symptoms 

The symptoms of thoracic scoliosis differ from person to person and depend on a number of factors, such as age and stage of development of the patient, as well as the location and severity of the curve, and many more.

Some symptoms of thoracic scoliosis include:

  • Uneven shoulder height
  • Uneven rib cage
  • Back pain
  • Uneven shoulder blades
  • Uneven waist height
  • Breast difference
  • Difficulty breathing


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Diagnosing Thoracic Scoliosis

Our Doctors diagnosis Thoracic Scoliosis through visual inspection and X-ray imaging. During an initial exam, the doctors at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute use our advanced low-dose X-ray imaging system to measure the curve.

Further imaging tests are sometimes required for cases that may require surgery. In these cases, the doctor will order more tests, such as CT or MRI scans.


In many cases, doctors begin by treating thoracic scoliosis through observation and a scoliosis brace. However, in cases where the patient’s curve grows to the point that they are in pain or having breathing, problems, surgery becomes the best option.


The doctors at Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute recommend observation for younger patients whose curves are less than 25 degrees. Using our in-house 2D/3D EOS imaging system, doctors can order images of the spine every 4 to 6 months in order to determine if the curve gets worse.  The X-ray delivers an extremely low dose of radiation. This low-dose imaging system helps prevent too much radiation because children get are more susceptible to the cumulative effects of radiation than adults.

Scoliosis brace

In patients whose curve has progressed past 20-25 degrees, doctors often prescribe a scoliosis brace until the patient reaches full skeletal maturity. Though bracing cannot correct the curvature, in many cases it can stop it from growing. For this reason, bracing becomes effective when it starts early and when a brace is worn as prescribed.

Scoliosis surgery

If the curve grows beyond 40-50 degrees, the doctor may recommend surgery. Also, the most common type of surgery to address this condition uses spinal fusion, which involves placing rods and screws into the vertebrae to prevent the spinal curvature from growing any bigger.

Surgeries to fix thoracic scoliosis are complex, multi-step procedures, but Richard Hostin, MD, Devesh Ramnath, MD, Ishaq Y. Syed, MD, Shyam Kishan, MD, and Kathryn Wiesman, MD are specially trained, and have years of experience performing these types of complex spine surgeries.

If you or your loved one suffers from scoliosis, we can help. Call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment.