Scoliosis is one of the common spine conditions seen in adolescents. But it can also affect children. Every year millions of new scoliosis cases are being diagnosed worldwide, and the majority of them are idiopathic scoliosis — a type of scoliosis that affects children of age around 10 to 12 years.
As the child grows, his spine also grows, and mostly the spine grows straight. But in some children, it doesn’t grow straight; it tends to bend to the side and forms an “s” or “c” shaped curve of the spine. This condition is called scoliosis, and the spinal curve measures 10 degrees or more.
Children with this condition might look like they are leaning to one side. The curve can appear on either the right or left side of the spine, and commonly it affects the middle (thoracic region) and lower (lumbar region) spine.
There are six different scoliosis types that commonly affect children:
- Infantile idiopathic scoliosis – a type of scoliosis diagnosed in children of age below 3 years.
- Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis – a type of scoliosis diagnosed in children of age between 4 to 10 years
- Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis – the most common type of scoliosis diagnosed in young children of age between 11 to 18 years.
- Congenital scoliosis – children are born with this condition because the spine develops in the womb itself due to some anomalies in the spine formation and development.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis – it is usually caused due to disorders in the brain, spinal cord, & muscular system.
- Syndromic scoliosis – a type of scoliosis that develops due to an underlying syndrome such as Marfan syndrome and Muscular dystrophy etc.
You might have noticed many scoliosis types include the word idiopathic — that is because idiopathic means the cause is not known. In addition to the above scoliosis types, spine specialists sometimes refer to the condition as early-onset scoliosis — it means scoliosis is diagnosed in children before 10 years.
Symptoms of scoliosis in a children
The common signs and symptoms of scoliosis in children include:
- Uneven shoulder height
- The head is slightly tilted sideways
- Uneven hip height or waistline
- The height or position of the shoulder blade looks difference
- The distance between both the arms and body will be unequal when the child is standing
- An uneven shape of the rib cage noticed when the child bends forward
Most children with this condition might not experience any symptoms other than the signs mentioned above. But some children experience symptoms like mild pain in the lower or middle back area. As the growth in children is very quick, so does the curve also tends to develop very quickly and worsen.
How is scoliosis diagnosed in children?
The diagnosis of scoliosis include a physical exam and analysis of the complete health history of your child along with some tests:
X-ray: This is a test to observe the internal muscles, bones, and other organs. It’s an important test to diagnose scoliosis because it can estimate the degree of the spinal curve.
MRI: This test is done for further analysis of the deformity and to ensure that there are no associated spinal cord or neural axia anomalies. This uses magnetic resonance and does not cause radiation
CT scan: This test involves taking X-rays at different angles and to get a cross-sectional anatomy and 3-D imaging of the deformed spine segment.
Early diagnosis of scoliosis is very important for effective treatment. If the condition is left untreated, it results in severe problems related to heart and lung function.
How is scoliosis treated in children?
The underlying outline of treatment refers to idiopathic scoliosis only. For other variants lot of other factors need to be taken into consideration.
Treatment for scoliosis depends on various factors like the degree of the spinal curve being a major one along with the child’s age, the pace curve growth, type of scoliosis and general health.
The purpose of treatment is to stop the growth of the curve and prevent deformity. The treatment option may include:
Observation: As children are growing, a spine specialist would recommend monitoring them closely and performing regular tests in case of mild scoliosis. The doctors analyze how the curve gets worse depending on the skeletal growth and suggest treatment. This is because the growth of the curve slows down or stops in some children after reaching puberty.
Bracing: Growing children with moderate scoliosis might need to wear a brace. He or she can wear it beneath the clothes for several hours a day. A brace can’t correct a curve but can prevent it from progressing as your child grows. Significantly, braces can reduce the need for surgery.
Surgery: Surgery is suggested in case of severe scoliosis, i.e., when the curve progresses more than 44 degrees or bracing unable to slow down the progress of the curve. Sometimes the curve gets worse even after the child stops growing. In such cases also surgery is recommended.
Scoliosis is a rare disorder, though if your child has it, consult a spine specialist, keep them healthy and get regular checkups as advised by the doctor to monitor the progression of the curve. To know more information about scoliosis treatment, consult Dr. Surya Prakash Rao, one of the best spine surgeons in Hyderabad. He has more than 24 years of experience in treating various spinal disorders, including scoliosis.