Medicine: Spines of Steel

Some ailments seem almost preferable to their cures. A case in point is scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine that occurs in childhood. As seen from behind, the spine should appear straight; in scoliosis it has a C-shaped or S-shaped curve. Extreme cases of scoliosis often require fusion of the spinal vertebrae. For most cases the standard treatment is forcible straightening of the spine, with the patient encased for four to six months in a massive, immobilizing plaster cast. To some parents of scoliosis victims, this treatment seems so punishing that they...

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