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Evid Based Spine Care J. 2011 May;2(2):25-34. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1267102.

Efficacy of bracing versus observation in the treatment of idiopathic scoliosis.

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  • 1Southampton University Hospitals Trust, Southampton, UK.



 Systematic review.


 (1) Does brace treatment compared with observation of curves lead to lower rates of surgery and failure for patients with idiopathic scoliosis? (2) Does brace treatment compared with observation of curves lead to better quality of life outcomes for patients with idiopathic scoliosis? (3) Does brace treatment compared with observation of curves lead to improved curve angle for patients with idiopathic scoliosis?


 A systematic review of the English-language literature was undertaken for articles published between 1970 and December 2010. Electronic databases and reference lists of key articles were searched to identify studies comparing brace treatment with observation of curves in patients with idiopathic scoliosis. Two independent reviewers assessed the strength of evidence using the GRADE criteria assessing quality, quantity, and consistency of results. Disagreements were resolved by consensus.


 We identified eight studies meeting our inclusion criteria. The pooled studies comparing surgical rates between observation and brace treatment showed no statistical significance (P = .65). One study showed a statistically significant difference in failure rate between observation (45%) and brace (15%) treatment (P < .001). Findings with respect to posttreatment quality of life at 2 years were inconsistent. Two studies favored the brace group, and one the observation group using the SRS-22 and Quality of Life Profile for Spine Deformities (QLPSD) measures. Two of three studies reporting pretreatment and posttreatment curve angles demonstrated a treatment effect favoring bracing; however, statistical significance for these treatment effects could not be calculated. One study described a treatment effect favoring observation but the differences were not statistically significant (P = .26).


 This systematic review identified and summarized only the highest level of evidence by limiting to comparison studies. Case-series were not included. This allowed for comparisons among the same patient populations. Findings with respect to surgical rates, quality of life, and change in curve angle demonstrate either no significant differences or inconsistent findings favoring one treatment or the other. If bracing does not cause a positive treatment effect, then its rejection will lead to significant savings for healthcare providers and purchasers. Given the very low to low level of evidence and inconsistent findings, a randomized trial is necessary to determine if bracing should be recommended.

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