Scoliosis is a growth-related disorder that causes the spine to grow sideways, most often during the growth spurt before puberty. It affects more girls than boys. While most cases of child scoliosis are mild, some cases can get worse as the child grows, causing back, neck and rib pain; interfering with daily activities; and causing breathing problems. Scoliosis can also be seen in severely degenerated spines of the elderly.
Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care of patients with spine problems, and the diagnosis, management and treatment of scoliosis. Our 24/7 inpatient neurology, neurosurgery and orthopedic spine surgery services, as well as our outpatient services, Home Health, physical and occupational therapy services are available to help treat people with scoliosis. In addition, we have the region’s only advanced 3Tesla, MRI, MRI spectroscopy and functional MRI technology to accurately diagnose all manner of neurologic disease, including scoliosis.
You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.
Signs and Symptoms
Scoliosis symptoms can include:
- Shoulders at different heights, or one shoulder blade more prominent
- Head not centered directly over the hips
- One hip appears higher than the others
- One side of the waist looks more curved than the other
- Ribs on one side that appear more prominent
- Appearance of leaning toward one side
- Back pain with or without pain radiating into the legs
To determine if someone has scoliosis, the physician will do a detailed exam and ask questions of family history and recent growth. During the exam, the physician will also check for normal neurologic functions such as sensation, muscle strength and reflexes in the limbs. We use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:
X-ray: This common imaging test allows the physician to see how the spine is curved.
Scoliosis tends to run in families, so heredity seems to play a part in development of the condition.
Risk factors that may contribute to scoliosis include:
Age: Symptoms typically appear during growth spurts, particularly just before puberty, between 9 and 15 years old. However, severe degeneration of the elderly spine can also result in scoliosis.
Being female: Scoliosis is almost two times more common in girls than in boys.
Neuromuscular conditions: People with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy have a higher risk of scoliosis.
Birth defects: Sometimes a child is born with scoliosis.
Scoliosis cannot be prevented. But early diagnosis enhances treatment outcomes.
Scoliosis is highly treatable in children when detected early. Scoliosis is more difficult to treat in elderly people and the focus is usually on controlling symptoms.
Treatment and Recovery
If your child has mild scoliosis, your doctor will likely monitor your child closely with physical exams and X-rays every four to six months to make sure the spine does not curve further. Curves in the upper spine are more likely to progress than curves in the middle or lower spine.
In elderly people, scoliosis is treated by a combination of medication to control symptoms and occasionally surgery to stabilize the spine or take pressure off nerves. In children, scoliosis treatment depends upon the child’s age, how much the child is likely to grow, how the spine is curved and where the curve is. Treatments may include bracing or scoliosis surgery.
A brace is used to control and minimize the growth and curving of the spine. It does not correct the curve. The brace is custom-made to fit your child exactly, and is almost invisible under clothes. The brace fits under the arms and around the rib cage, lower back and hips. The brace must be worn at all times except for athletics or showering. The brace comes off after the child stops growing.
Scoliosis surgery can treat a severe curve of the spine. During the surgery, certain spinal bones are joined together to prevent further curving of the spine. Then rods, screws or hooks may be attached to other parts of the spine to straighten the curve. In most cases, the screws and rods remain in the spine and do not have to be removed.
Recovery After Surgery
A child who has scoliosis surgery is usually up walking the next day, and goes home from the hospital within a week. Physical therapy will be prescribed to improve muscle strength and walking.
Most cases of scoliosis are mild. But scoliosis can cause complications including:
Breathing and heart problems: A curved spine can cause the rib cage to press on the heart and lungs, making it difficult for them to work properly.
Back problems: Adults who had scoliosis as children have a higher rate of back problems, including chronic back and leg pain.
Tethered cord syndrome
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