Disparities in Pediatric Scoliosis: The Impact of Race and Insurance Type on Access to Nonoperative Treatment for Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

Michael J. Heffernan, Manaf Younis, Bryant Song, Bailli Fontenot, Ryan Dewitz, Jaysson T. Brooks, Claudia Leonardi, Scott A. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) has evidence-based, nonoperative treatments proven to be effective with early diagnosis and prompt treatment. The purpose of this study was to identify potential disparities in access to nonoperative treatment for AIS. Specifically, we sought to determine the interaction of socioeconomic factors on a major curve magnitude and recommend treatment at the initial presentation. Methods: A retrospective review of AIS patients who underwent surgery at a single tertiary pediatric hospital between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2018 was conducted. Patients were divided into 2 groups for comparison: patients with public insurance (PUB) and those with private insurance (PRV). Primary variables analyzed were patient race, Area Deprivation Index (ADI), major curve magnitude, and treatment recommendation at the initial presentation. Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to identify the predictors of the major curve magnitude at presentation. Results: A total of 341 patients met the inclusion criteria; PUB and PRV groups consisted of 182 (53.4%) and 159 (46.6%) children, respectively. Overall, the major curve magnitude at presentation was significantly higher in PUB compared with PRV patients (50.0° vs. 45.1°; P=0.004) and higher in Black patients compared to White patients (51.8 vs. 47.0, P=0.042). Surgery was recommended for 49.7% of the PUB group and 43.7% of the PRV group. A lesser number of PUB patients had curve magnitudes within the range of brace indications (≤40°) compared to PRV patients (22.5% vs. 35.2%, respectively; P=0.010). The odds of having an initial major curve magnitude <40 degrees were 67% lower among Black patients with public insurance compared to Black patients with private insurance (OR=0.33; 95% CI: 0.13-0.83; P=0.019). Conclusion: This study demonstrated disparity in access to nonoperative treatment for pediatric scoliosis. Black patients with public insurance were the most at-risk to present with curve magnitudes exceeding brace indications. Future work focused on understanding the reasons for this significant disparity may help to promote more equitable access to effective nonoperative treatment for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Level of Evidence: III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-431
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • insurance
  • nonoperative management
  • scoliosis
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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