Understanding Pediatric Scoliosis

doctor examining young patient's backScoliosis is a medical condition typically treated by a pediatric spine specialist. It’s characterized by an abnormal curvature or rotation of a child’s spine. Incidents of scoliosis in children tend to be mild, but can be severe in some cases. Scoliosis doesn’t typically persist into adulthood.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Scoliosis tends to affect girls more than boys, and can go undetected until puberty. The three main types of scoliosis are idiopathic scoliosis, congenital scoliosis and neuromuscular scoliosis.

  • Idiopathic scoliosis is most common. It’s a genetic hereditary condition with a currently unknown case.
  • Congenital scoliosis is a rare spine abnormality detected at birth.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by abnormalities in the muscles and nerves around the spine, causing curvature.

Most cases of scoliosis are mild and don’t require treatment. Even in cases that require treatment, children are able to lead normal, active lives afterward.

While children with mild scoliosis may only need to have their development closely monitored by a pediatric spine specialist, those with a severe case may need to wear braces or undergo surgery.

How Is Scoliosis Treated?

In the majority of cases, rather than medical treatment, a pediatric spine specialist will monitor the curvature of your child’s spine. They’ll use a special measurement called the Cobb angle to measure this curvature.

The Cobb angle works by measuring the spinal curvature in degrees and gives doctors a guide for understanding how to address the treatment of scoliosis.

  • A curve of 10 to 15 degrees typically means that only monitoring is necessary.
  • A curve of 20 to 40 degrees means your child’s pediatric spine specialist may suggest a back brace.
  • A curve of 40 to 50 degrees or more may mean that surgery is necessary.

After measuring, your doctor will create a plan to monitor the growth and development of your child’s spine.