Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. It can vary from a slight abnormality to a disfiguring deformity that can affect how a person walks and breathes. Your child typically has a spine check each time he or she has an annual physical with your pediatrician, and often also by the school nurse.
It is the most common spinal deformity in children.
It is most often detected between the ages of 10 and 15 - around the time of a child's growth spurt - usually a year before a girl gets her period or a boy begins growing hair under his arms or in his groin.
If there's any asymmetry detected in your child's shoulders, scapulae (shoulder blades), spine, or pelvis, we recommend seeing a pediatric spine specialist to have an x-ray performed. If scoliosis is present, the doctor can measure the degree of curvature.
Treatment for children with a spinal curve of about 25º are treated without surgery, using a brace, physical therapy, and/or vitamin D supplements.
When a brace is needed, we custom fit your child with an external brace (a vest-like garment) to keep the scoliosis from getting worse and to maintain an upright spine. We choose the most effective brace that your child is most likely to wear as prescribed. Your child should wear the brace for 16 to 18 hours every day until he or she stops growing. This will ensure the spine straightens adequately and will stay straight into adulthood.
To correct the curve, there are specific exercises and corrective breathing techniques a physical therapist can teach your child to develop the inner muscles of the rib cage and change the shape of the upper trunk.
If your child has a curve of 50º or more, surgery is usually necessary. There are a variety of different approaches depending on the age of your child. For younger children, growing rods - including the magnetic remote-controlled MAGEC rod, which can be periodically adjusted using a device placed on the child's back - is often used. "Tethering" of the vertebrae with screws and cords in the spine is a treatment option for somewhat older children who are still growing. Fusing parts of the spine in an operation through the back is the standard of care for most adolescents and teenagers.
Scoliosis that remains untreated can get worse. Once the curve hits the 70º stage, lung function may be impaired. Curves of 90º or more can worsen both lung and heart function.
Even children who have had scoliosis surgery can participate in many sports and activities with their peers.
There have never been better treatment options for children with scoliosis. The sooner you start, the less likely your child will need surgery and the healthier he or she will be.