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BACKGROUND: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a common spinal deformity with physical and psychosocial implications for adolescents. The aim of this qualitative evidence synthesis (QES) was to systematically search for, identify, and synthesise qualitative research in order to improve our understanding of what it is like to live with AIS and to facilitate empathetic and effective healthcare. METHODS: We systematically searched 4 databases (Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO and CINAHL) and used the 7 phases of meta-ethnography to synthesise qualitative evidence including studies with children and adolescents, and additional viewpoints from parents about the experience of AIS. RESULTS: We distilled 7 themes. (1) Diagnosis turned time on its head revolves around the AIS diagnosis and the uncertainty of the future that accompanied it. (2) Usual activities no longer the same explores how activities and participation in everyday life are impacted by AIS. (3) Hiding my body describes the pervasive struggle with self-image and appearance. (4) I want to feel normal again explores adolescents' desire to return to 'normality' and challenges of feeling different. (5) Balancing isolation and support considers the relationships in the adolescents' lives alongside their feelings of isolation. (6) Trying to keep control of treatment decisions explores how adolescents and their parents strive to feel in control. (7) Fearing surgery yet feeling hopeful focused on the apprehension and fear around spinal surgery and the beacon of hope it represented. CONCLUSIONS: Our QES contributes to the understanding of the adolescent experience of living with AIS. From our findings, clinicians can better understand the physical and psychosocial obstacles and the challenges faced throughout the journey of AIS to inform their clinical interactions with these patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Bmc pediatr

Publication Date





Adolescents, Meta-ethnography, Qualitative evidence synthesis, Qualitative research, Scoliosis, Spinal deformity, Child, Humans, Adolescent, Scoliosis, Anthropology, Cultural, Emotions, Qualitative Research, Databases, Factual, Kyphosis