The spine is made up of a stack of rectangular-shaped building blocks called vertebrae. Normally, when you look at a child’s back, the spine appears straight. However, a spine affected by scoliosis appears curved – giving the appearance that the child is leaning to one side.
This sideways curvature of the spine often occurs during a child’s growth spurt just before puberty. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some spine deformities continue to get more severe as children grow.
In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. Though in some situations, scoliosis may develop as a result of arthritis, osteoporosis, or a hereditary condition.
If your child or someone you know is living with this spine condition, here’s what you need to know about pediatric scoliosis treatment.
How is scoliosis diagnosed?
Early detection is important for successful scoliosis treatment. If you think your child has scoliosis, it’s important to get in touch with a doctor right away. A physical evaluation and X-ray will properly diagnose atypical curve patterns on the spine. Doctors may also test for scoliosis through an MRI or CT scan. 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.
Pediatric Scoliosis Treatment
The goal of pediatric scoliosis treatment is to stop the curve and prevent deformity. Observation and repeated examinations may be necessary to determine if the spine is continuing to curve.
In cases of severe scoliosis or when a child has a curve that has worsened to more than 50 degrees, a spine surgeon would find the best scoliosis treatment plan for that individual. This might include:
- Wearing a brace to stop the curve from worsening
- Undergoing surgery to straighten severe cases of scoliosis
Wearing a brace won’t cure scoliosis or reverse the curve, but it usually prevents further progression of the curve. The most common type of brace is made of plastic and is designed to conform to the body. This brace is almost invisible under clothes, as it fits under the arms and around the rib cage, lower back, and hips.
Most braces are worn day and night. 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, kids can take off the brace to participate in sports or other physical activities.
Severe scoliosis typically progresses with time, so a spine doctor might suggest scoliosis surgery to reduce the severity of the spinal curve and to prevent it from getting worse.
The most common type of scoliosis surgery is called spinal fusion. In spinal fusion, surgeons connect two or more vertebrae, so they can’t move independently. Pieces of bone or bone-like material are placed between the vertebrae. Metal rods, hooks, screws, or wires typically hold that part of the spine straight and still while the old bone fuses with the new bone.
If the scoliosis is progressing rapidly at a young age, surgeons can install a rod that can adjust in length as the child grows. This growing rod is attached to the top and bottom sections of the spinal curvature and is usually lengthened every six months.
Our spine specialist, Dr. Jeff Sawyer will carefully walk you through each step of your child’s care. We treat a variety of spine conditions and will work to find the best scoliosis treatment plan for your lifestyle. Make an appointment with Dr. Sawyer today.