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Spinal Exam


January 1st, 2017


  • How to Elicit

  • Inspect the spine, and then palpate the spinous processes of the vertebrae.
  • Look For

  • Lateral curvature of the spine
  • Distortion of the trunk
  • Prominence of the ribs
  • Assymetry of skin folds about the flank
  • Shoulder elevation
  • Scapular rotation
  • Causes of Scoliosis

  • Idiopathic (80%)
  • Congenital - maldevelopment of vertebrae
  • Neuromuscular disorders - cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy
  • Syndromal - Marfan, neurofibromatosis, Down syndrome
  • Trauma - fracture, dislocation, burns
  • Degenerative - secondary to facet joint osteoarthritis
Consider dropping a plumb line, if one is available, from the midline at the level of the atlantoaxial joint. This will aid in easily identifying even minor lateral curvature.
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