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Failure to Diagnose Scoliosis

Syracuse Lawyers Representing Medical Malpractice Victims

Scoliosis is a curve in the spine that usually happens during a growth spurt before puberty, and is often diagnosed by pediatricians. It can be caused by conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, but often it's caused by unknown factors. Scoliosis is one of three spine curvature disorders; the others are lordosis and kyphosis. If you were harmed by a doctor's failure to diagnose scoliosis, a skilled Syracuse medical malpractice attorney can evaluate whether you have a basis to sue for damages.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis usually occurs in kids who are 10 to 15-years-old. However, it may be diagnosed in both children and adults. There are different types of scoliosis. One of the most common is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which doesn't have a known cause. The other two types are functional and neuromuscular scoliosis. Usually pediatricians or family doctors diagnose it routinely during a wellness check up. Symptoms of scoliosis that a doctor should investigate can include curved spine, chest pain, uneven hips, and shortness of breath.

A test that is often used for diagnostic purposes is the Adams Forward Bend Test, in which a child bends forward with straight arms and legs reaching to the ground as a doctor takes a look at the spine to observe any abnormalities. If a doctor suspects there is scoliosis from this test or visual observation, he can issue an order for an X-ray to confirm. The X-ray will show whether there is enough curvature to warrant treatment.

Treatment and Consequences of Failure to Diagnose

The treatment plan will depend on how old the patient is and how significant the curve is. Often when someone is still growing, a brace is recommended. Braces don't usually correct the curve, but some believe it can stop the curve from increasing. When scoliosis is properly treated while it's still moderate, it may be possible to avoid surgery. However, treatment of severe scoliosis could involve surgery. The surgery often involves fusion of the vertebrae with bone grafts and steel rods.

When scoliosis goes untreated, the result can be deformity and significant back pain and arthritis down the road. A spine that is misaligned can result in posture problems that adversely impact the legs, hips, neck, shoulders, and back. It can also result in a constriction of the lungs and breathing issues.

Elements of Medical Malpractice

Failure to diagnose scoliosis is not always medical malpractice. If the scoliosis doesn't cause any problems down the road, there may not be any harm to recover damages for. Similarly, if another competent doctor would've acted the same way as your doctor under the circumstances and failed to diagnose, medical malpractice would not be found. Medical malpractice involves negligence by a health care provider. In order to be held accountable, your doctor's conduct must have fallen below the professional standard of care and thereby caused you harm.

To establish medical malpractice, you need to show: (1) your health care provider owed you a professional standard of care, (2) she failed to meet the professional standard of care, (3) causation, and (4) actual damages. For example, if your child went in for a check up complaining of shortness of breath and the doctor observed a curved spine, ordered an X-ray that confirmed scoliosis, but then failed to follow up with a diagnosis and treatment, such that your child's scoliosis worsened and she was permanently harmed, it is likely the doctor's conduct fell below the professional standard of care.


If you are able to establish liability for medical malpractice based on failure to diagnose scoliosis, you may be able to recover damages. Damages can include economic and noneconomic losses such as wage loss, medical bills, loss of enjoyment, and loss of consortium.

Knowledgeable Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Syracuse

At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, our lawyers represent patients injured by a failure to diagnose scoliosis at doctors’ offices and hospitals in and around the Syracuse area. We also serve clients in Rochester, Lyons, Cooperstown, Wampsville, Utica, Watertown, Lowville, Oswego, Oneida, Delhi, Norwich, Ithaca, Herkimer, Canandaigua, Binghamton, Auburn and Elmira. Please call us at 833-200-2000 or contact us via our online form.

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"We were very impressed with how Jeff DeFrancisco represented us at trial and we were extremely happy when the jury found in our favor." D.M., Auburn, NY
"I suffered a serious injury as a result of medical malpractice. My husband and I retained Jeff DeFrancisco to assist us in this case. We were extremely happy with his representation and highly recommend him." Kelley R., Syracuse, NY
Since the insurance company was unwilling to settle the matter my case ultimately went to trial. At trial Jeff DeFrancisco did an absolutely amazing job by obtaining a very favorable result for me." T.H., Oneida, NY
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