Spine oncology

Spinal deformity is characterized by a curve of the vertebrae in the spine. Scoliosis and kyphosis can be caused by age-related wear and tear or complications from previous surgeries.  The moderate deformity occurs when the facet joints and discs deteriorate over time and the normal structure of the spine becomes compromised, no longer able to support normal healthy posture. The pain you experience is the result of damaged joints and pinched nerves, not the spinal curve. Treatment can include medications, physical therapy, injections, or surgery.

The Spine Care and Surgery department at the University of Illinois Chicago specializes in treating rare and complex conditions and injuries. We have a diverse team of industry-leading surgeons with the experience needed to treat and manage severe spine injuries. Being a tertiary referral center we specialize in revision surgery and we often successfully treat the patients who are told “nothing else could be done” for them. You can trust that our team will provide you with the best possible results.


Scoliosis is characterized by the deformation of the spine, curving to the left or right. This condition may develop in adults as facet joints and discs begin to deteriorate. The facet joints are supporting structures that reinforce the spine, allowing us to bend and twist and retain a strong spinal column. As these joints begin to degrade, the vertebrae can start to tilt and shift to one side or the other.


Kyphosis is diagnosed in patients with an abnormal forward curvature (more than 50 degrees) of the spine. This condition can occur in the lower and upper back areas. kyphosis commonly develops as a result of osteoporotic compression fractures, and can dramatically limit function.


Lordosis is characterized by the significant inward curvature of the spine in the lower back, resulting in a backward-leaning posture.

What are the Symptoms of Spinal Deformity?

Just as the severity of your scoliosis may vary, so too will your symptoms. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and numbness/weakness in the legs or feet. It is possible to have scoliosis and not experience pain, although when pain does occur, it is typically caused by a pinched nerve, not the improper curvature of the spine. In more severe cases, the spinal deformity can cause:

  • Neck, back, or leg pain
  • Radiculopathy – shooting pain in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Physical signs of spine deformity
  • Chin to chest syndrome or forward jutting of the head
  • Unsteadiness while walking
  • Uneven hips, shoulders, or leg lengths
  • Hump formation in the upper back
  • Herniated discs, pinched nerves, or spinal compression
  • Reduced natural arch of the upper or lower back

Severe scoliosis and its symptoms are similar to spinal stenosis, with the main difference being visible spinal imbalance. This imbalance can result in:

  • The strain on the hips and knees
  • Difficulty walking a straight line
  • Increased risk of falling

If you have been officially diagnosed with Kyphosis, you will likely be unable to stand up straight, appearing noticeably hunched over while standing. This makes standing for extended periods very challenging and also rather uncomfortable when attempting to lay flat.

Diagnosing Spinal Deformities

Diagnostic tests include a physical examination, x-rays, CT scan, MRI, or myelogram.

  • X-rays – create images of the bones in your spine and show whether any of them are too close together or will be taken to measure misalignment.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan – is a noninvasive test that uses an x-ray beam and a computer to make 2-dimensional images of your spine, highly useful for viewing changes in bony structures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan – is a noninvasive test that uses a magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to give a detailed view of the soft tissues of your spine, including nerves, ligaments, and discs.
  • Myelogram – a diagnostic X-ray where a contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal. A fluoroscope is used to record the images formed by the dye, showing any nerves being pinched by vertebral discs, bones, or stenosis.

What Treatments are Available?

Treatment for mild to moderate spine deformity is determined by the severity of your symptoms. In cases where the curvature of the spine is severe, complex surgery may be required to correct your condition. Surgical options vary based on symptoms, the size of the affected area, and the type of deformity.

  • Decompression: If the scoliosis is mild and is causing a pinched nerve at one level, our surgeons will perform a laminectomy, in which a portion of the surrounding bone is removed to relieve pressure and prevent contact.
  • Fusion: This procedure involves joining two vertebrae with a bone graft which is held together with hardware such as plates, rods, hooks, pedicle screws, or cages, and restores proper alignment to the spine.

Spine Deformity Treatment at the University of Illinois Chicago

For more information regarding spine care and surgery, speak with a representative from our team by calling our offices or schedule a consultation online today!