What Is Scoliosis?

super girlScoliosis is a deviation from normal spinal curvature. The condition is most commonly diagnosed before puberty and during rapid growth spurts, and usually there is no identifiable cause apart from those who have cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

Most scoliosis patients have a mild case, meaning a degree of curvature less than 25 degrees, but some children’s scoliosis progresses as they grow and the problem can become so severe that it inhibits the lungs’ ability to function as they should.

Scoliosis Symptoms

Children with scoliosis may notice unevenness in their shoulders or hips, asymmetric skin folds, or that their head is not centered. Clothes may not fit as they should and hang unevenly on the body.

Signs and symptoms of scoliosis may include:

  • Uneven shoulders or hips with one higher than the other
  • Uneven waist or appearance of one leg longer that the other
  • Abnormal gait, including changes with walking
  • Leaning to one side from the sideways curvature of the spine
  • Reduced range of motion of the spine
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Having one shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other

Diagnosing Scoliosis

A doctor can usually discern whether a child has scoliosis from looking at their posture, but diagnosis is confirmed through:

  • A physical examination
  • A neurological exam
  • An X-ray

A curvature of more than 10 degrees confirms scoliosis.

For curves less than 20 degrees or if the patient is done growing, treatment usually only includes observation and X-rays may be taken periodically to ensure the spinal curvature does not progress.

Treatment Options for Pediatric Scoliosis

Most children with mild scoliosis don’t require any treatment, only periodic observation. If their degree of spinal curvature is 25+ degrees (moderate scoliosis) and the child is still growing, state-of-the-art bracing may be useful to halt the progression of scoliosis, which is effective for 75 percent of patients. Although bracing doesn’t cure scoliosis, it usually helps prevent the condition from progressing.

Examples of treatments for scoliosis include:

  • State-of-the-art bracing. The most common nonsurgical treatment for scoliosis is a brace that must be worn for a set period of hours per day to halt the progression of spinal curvature. This is usually reserved for children with moderate scoliosis who are still growing.
  • MAGEC rods and other growing rods. Children with moderate or severe curvatures who are not fully grown may be candidates for growing rods that can be adjusted over time as the child grows.
  • Spinal fusion. Patients whose scoliosis is severe and spinal curvature exceeds 45+ degrees are considered candidates for surgical treatment such as spinal fusion due to the risk of continued progression into adulthood. This surgical procedure can reduce the degree of spinal curvature and prevent the condition from progressing. Spinal fusion is the most common surgical procedure to correct scoliosis, and it involves realigning the bones into a more normal spinal balance in all three dimensions. The surgery fuses the spine into this balanced position and the bones are stabilized with screws and rods to prevent any future progression into adulthood. If the child’s scoliosis is progressing rapidly, surgeons can install a growing rod that can adjust in length as the child grows.

Does Your Child Have Scoliosis? We Can Help

Scoliosis is a common and treatable condition. Our pediatric orthopedic specialists build custom treatment plans designed to get your child back to doing what they love doing most.

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