Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that most often is diagnosed in adolescents. While scoliosis can occur in people with conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most childhood scoliosis is not known.
Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some curves worsen as children grow. Severe scoliosis can be disabling. An especially serious spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.
Children who have mild scoliosis are monitored closely, usually with X-rays, to see if the curve is getting worse. In many cases, no treatment is necessary. Some children may need to wear a brace to stop the curve from worsening. Others may need surgery to straighten more serious curves.
Symptoms of scoliosis may include:
- Uneven shoulders.
- One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other.
- Uneven waist.
- One hip higher than the other.
- One side of the rib cage jutting forward.
- A prominence on one side of the back when bending forward.
With most scoliosis cases, the spine will rotate or twist in addition to curving side to side. This causes the ribs or muscles on one side of the body to stick out farther than those on the other side.
Health care providers don’t know what causes the most common type of scoliosis — although it appears to involve hereditary factors, because the disorder sometimes runs in families. Less common types of scoliosis may be caused by:
- Certain neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
- Birth defects affecting the development of the bones of the spine.
- Previous surgery on the chest wall as a baby.
- Injuries to or infections of the spine.
- Spinal cord irregularities.
Diagnosis of Scoliosis
Orthopedic Specialist at Shreya Hospital will initially take a detailed medical history and may ask questions about recent growth. During the physical exam, your provider may have your child stand and then bend forward from the waist, with arms hanging loosely, to see if one side of the rib cage is more prominent than the other.
Your provider also may perform a neurological exam to check for:
- Muscle weakness.
- Ultra Sound
Treatment of Scoliosis
Scoliosis treatments vary, depending on the size of the curve. Children who have very mild curves usually don’t need any treatment at all, although they may need regular checkups to see if the curve is worsening as they grow.
Bracing or surgery may be needed if the spinal curve is moderate or large. Factors to be considered include:
- Maturity. If a child’s bones have stopped growing, the risk of curve progression is low. That also means that braces have the most effect in children whose bones are still growing. Bone maturity can be checked with hand X-rays.
- Size of curve. Larger curves are more likely to worsen with time.
- Sex. Girls have a much higher risk of progression than do boys.
If your child has moderate scoliosis and the bones are still growing, your health care provider may recommend a brace. Wearing a brace won’t cure scoliosis or reverse the curve, but it usually prevents the curve from getting worse.
The most common type of brace is made of plastic and is contoured to conform to the body. This brace is almost invisible under the clothes, as it fits under the arms and around the rib cage, lower back and hips.
Most braces are worn between 13 and 16 hours a day. A brace’s effectiveness increases with the number of hours a day it’s worn. Children who wear braces can usually participate in most activities and have few restrictions. If necessary, a child can take off the brace to participate in sports or other physical activities.
Braces are discontinued when there are no further changes in height. On average, girls complete their growth at age 14, and boys at 16, but this varies greatly by individual.
Severe scoliosis typically progresses with time, so your health care provider might suggest scoliosis surgery to help straighten the curve and prevent it from getting worse.
Surgical options include:
- Spinal fusion. In this procedure, surgeons connect two or more of the bones in the spine, called vertebrae, together so they can’t move independently. Pieces of bone or a bonelike material is placed between the vertebrae. Metal rods, hooks, screws or wires typically hold that part of the spine straight and still while the old and new bone material fuses together.
- Expanding rod. If the scoliosis is progressing rapidly at a young age, surgeons can attach one or two expandable rods along the spine that can adjust in length as the child grows. The rods are lengthened every 3 to 6 months either with surgery or in the clinic using a remote control.
- Vertebral body tethering. This procedure can be performed through small incisions. Screws are placed along the outside edge of the spinal curve, and a strong, flexible cord is threaded through the screws. When the cord is tightened, the spine straightens. As the child grows, the spine may straighten even more.