Scoliosis Curve Direction

Levoscoliosis and Dextroscoliosis

A doctor examines a young patient's spine.
Scoliosis is an abnormal side to side curve. sylv1rob1

Medical experts and others interested in describing scoliosis have a number of terms and phrases they can use to communicate the features of a particular case. Such terms address, for example, the area (i.e., cervical, thoracic, lumbar, etc.) of the spine in which the curve or curves are located, the cause of the scoliosis and/or how many total sideways curves a spine has.

Levoscoliosis and Dextroscoliosis

Another set of terms classifies scoliosis by the direction into which your spine curves (relative to the midline of your body). For this information, two terms, which also serve as building blocks for more complex descriptions of scoliosis cases, are used. The terms are: Levoscoliosis and dextroscoliosis.

These terms are often combined with additional terms that describe other aspects of scoliosis - such as the location of the curve.

Let’s take a careful look at each – to get the vocabulary and the visuals down pat.

Levoscoliosis - Curve Direction

Diagram of a levoscoliosis.
Diagram of a levoscoliosis. BSIP/UIG/Universal Images Group

"Levoscoliosis refers to a spinal curvature that bow out to the patient's left. The body tends to side bend to the left. Levoscoliosises usually, but not always, occur in the lumbar spine. (For example, the diagram above shows a thoracic levoscoliosis.)"

A note: While, at first glance, it may look to you like the curve is going to the right side, medical experts have a very specific way to define both levo and dextro-scoliosises.

Instead of a visual check, they determine the direction of deviation of the spine. So if you see the spine move to the left, as it does in this diagram and in the slide that follows, it means the curve is going to the left. You might view this in terms of the convex side which is on the left, and the concave side which is on the right, though that's not the absolute technical way to do it.

With a levoscoliosis, the body tends to side bend to the right - away from the sideways thoracic curve.


Spinal curve.
Levoscoliosis. Genna Naccache/The Image Bank/Getty Images

A levoscoliosis is shown on a live body (rather than a diagram of the skeleton.) In this instance of levoscoliosis, the curve is lower down than in the previous slide.

An idea circulating among experts and other interested people is that left thoracic curves tend to be associated with diseases, which right thoracic curves are more "normal," according to Goldberg, et. al. in their 1999 study "Left thoracic curve patterns and their association with disease." The study was published in Spine journal.

While the researchers did find an association between left thoracic curves and disease, it wasn't a very strong one. Instead of further tests on patients with left T-spine curves, or special treatment, the authors say that male gender and the age of scoliosis onset in girls are more important risk factors to watch.

They also say that every new case of scoliosis deserves equally meticulous assessment, and that special or more sophisticated tests should be given based on the patient's entire clinical picture, not just the presence of a left thoracic curve.

More About Scoliosis:  School Scoliosis Screenings

Goldberg C., Moore D., Fogarty E., Dowling F.Left thoracic curve patterns and their association with disease. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). June 1999. Accessed Feb 2016.

Dextroscoliosis - Direction of the Curve

Depictions of a skeleton with a straight spine and a spine with dextroscoliosis.
Depictions of a skeleton with a straight spine and a spine with dextroscoliosis. SCIEPRO/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Dextroscoliosis refers to a spinal curvature in which the curve of the spine bows out to the patient's right. The body tends to side bend to the right. Most of the time, a dextroscoliosis occurs in the thoracic spine.

Levoscoliosis and Dextroscoliosis X-Ray

X Ray of a scoliosis
X Ray of dextroscoliosos on top and levoscoliosis on the bottom. NI QIN/E+/Getty Images

A person's spine can have both a dextroscoliosis and levoscoliosis. In the x-ray image above, the thoracic spine (top part) shows a dextroscolosis) and the lumbar spine (bottom part) shows a levoscoliosis.

Related:  How Scoliosis Curves are Measured

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