Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal condition of spine. It causes abnormal curvature in the spine or backbone. Scoliosis can affect any part of the spine. However, chest area and the lower section of the back are the commonly affected regions. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by congenital spinal malformations.

Types of scoliosis:

  • Infantile idiopathic scoliosis- in children less than three years old
  • Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis- in children between three and ten years of age
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis- in children who are between 10 and 18 years old

Risk factors

The common risk factors which may increase your risk for developing scoliosis include:

  • Age - the symptoms often occur during puberty
  • Gender - females are at higher risk than males
  • Genetics - people are more likely to have scoliosis if the family members are affected with it

Signs and symptoms

The common signs and symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulders and waist; and one hip appears more prominent than other. The individual may lean to one side due to uneven leg length and also the clothes do not hang properly.

Notify your doctor immediately when you notice signs and symptoms of scoliosis in your child.

Causes

The exact cause is not known. However, congenital spinal malformations such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Marfan syndrome, may be responsible for the condition. Babies are born with scoliosis as a result of a problem with the development of spine in the womb.

Complications

Most of the patients have a mild form of scoliosis, but it may cause certain complications such as heart and lung damage, chronic back pain, uneven hips, and shift of the waist and trunk to the side.

Self-management

Scoliosis cannot be prevented, but exercising daily or participating in sports can improve overall health and well-being of the patient.

Your doctor will first perform a physical examination of the spine, ribs, hips and shoulders. During this your child will be asked to stand and then bend forward by loosely hanging the arms, this helps the doctor to check if one side of the rib cage is more prominent than the other. Then the doctor measures the degree of scoliosis using a scoliometer. The neurological test is also performed to check for muscle weakness, numbness, and abnormal reflexes.

An imaging test such as X-rays is performed to check for the shape, direction, location and the angle of the curve. If your child has more symptoms, such as back pain, or if the symptoms are severe, an MRI scan or CT scan is performed.

The scoliosis treatment depends on the age, severity, and extent of developing complications. In mild cases, i.e., children with the low curvature of the spine may not require treatment as it may naturally improve as the child gets older. However, if the condition is severe, braces or casts are provided.

If the child’s curve continues to progress despite bracing or casting, surgery would be the preferred treatment option. During the surgery, metal rods are inserted into the back to stabilize the spine. These rods are lengthened as your child grows.

In older children, scoliosis may not improve with time and may progressively get worse. In such cases, the treatment options are:

  • Non-surgical therapy- such as painkillers and exercises
  • Back brace- worn until the child stop growing to prevent the spine from curving further
  • Surgery– spinal fusion is the most common type of scoliosis surgery in which two or more bones of the spine are connected, and pieces of bone or bone-like material are placed between the vertebrae; screws, hooks, wires, metal rods are used to hold the spine straight.