Adolescent & Juvenile Scoliosis Fundamentals
In scoliosis, the spine curves from side to side. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. Both boys and girls develop scoliosis, but girls are four times more likely to require surgery than boys.
The condition develops gradually, typically between the ages of 10 and 16, and may progress during your child’s growth spurt years. Scoliosis is painless and easy to miss, but can become apparent during a routine physical exam. Adolescents are always screened for scoliosis, whether by a school nurse or the family doctor.
Diagnosis involves a look at medical and family history, and a physical and neurological exam. If a curve is detected, X-rays are used to pinpoint the location, extent and degree of curvature.
What are the symptoms of scoliosis?
- Uneven shoulders or waistline
- One or both shoulder blades sticking out
- Leaning slightly to one side
- A hump on one side of the back
What are my child’s treatment options for scoliosis?
Treatment depends on your child’s age, bone maturity and the degree and pattern of the curve.
Bracing is used to temporarily halt the worsening of the curve during a growth spurt. The braces are lightweight and typically only need to be worn at night.
If the curve is more than 45 degrees, surgery is the only permanent solution. The goal of surgery is to make the spine straighter. The surgeon fuses the bones of the spine together with the help of bone grafts and uses metallic implants to strengthen that bond.
In some cases, surgeons use a less invasive technique. Guided by a thin, telescope-like instrument called an endoscope, they can place metal implants and bone grafts in the spine through small incisions in the abdomen and chest. With this approach, the incision is shorter, recovery is easier, and most patients can leave the hospital after two or three days.
How does my child prepare for surgery?
- Complete any pre-operative tests or lab work prescribed by your child’s doctor.
- Do not allow your child to take aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) one week prior to surgery.
- Call your doctor’s office to verify the surgery time.
- Refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight the night before surgery.