Conditions + Treatments

Scoliosis in Children

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If your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis you’ll have questions about her treatment, outlook and other issues. It may comfort you to know that at Boston Children’s Hospital Spinal Program we have treated many children with scoliosis and spinal conditions—some of which are so rare that few pediatric doctors have come across them — and we can offer you expert diagnosis, treatment and care.  We will approach your child’s care with sensitivity and support—for your child and your whole family. Scoliosis is not usually a life-threatening condition, and most children grow up to lead normal, active lives.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine—in addition to the normal front to back curvature—has an abnormal side-to-side “S”- or “C”-shaped curvature. The spine is also rotated or twisted, pulling the ribs along with it to form a multidimensional curve.

The Scoliosis Research Society defines scoliosis as a curvature of the spine measuring 10 degrees or greater on x-ray. The condition isn’t rare. It mainly affects girls—many of whom have mild forms of scoliosis, are never even aware of it, and never need treatment.

How common is scoliosis?

Three to five children out of every 1,000 develop spinal curves that are considered large enough to require treatment. Idiopathic scoliosis does tend to run in families, although no one genetic link has been confirmed.

What are the different types of scoliosis?

Scoliosis is diagnosed and treated as one of three main types:

Idiopathic scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common form, with no definite cause, mainly affecting adolescent girls, but existing in three age groups:

•   adolescent idiopathic scoliosis
•   juvenile idiopathic scoliosis
•   infantile (early-onset) idiopathic scoliosis

Neuromuscular scoliosis

Neuromuscular scoliosis is associated with a neuromuscular condition such as cerebral palsy, myopathy or spina bifida.

Congenital scoliosis

Present at birth, congenital scoliosis is caused by a failure of the vertebrae to form normally—the least common form.
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