Conditions + Treatments

Scoliosis in Children

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Patients come here from around the world for their scoliosis treatment. We're happy to be able to provide world-class care for them and for our local patients.

--Spinal Program Team, Orthopedic Center

If your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis, we know that you and your family are under stress. So, at Boston Children’s Hospital, we’ll approach your child’s treatment with sensitivity and support—for your child and your whole family.

You can have peace of mind knowing that the team in the Boston Children’s Spinal Program has treated many children with spinal problems—some of which are so rare that few pediatric doctors have come across them—and we can offer you expert diagnosis, treatment and care. Scoliosis is not usually a life-threatening condition, and most children grow up to lead normal, active lives.

About 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.

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.

Types of Scoliosis:

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

   •   idiopathic scoliosis: 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: associated with a neuromuscular condition such as cerebral palsy, myopathy or 
       spina bifida
   •   congenital scoliosis: present at birth, caused by a failure of the vertebrae to form normally—the least common form

Treatments for Scoliosis

We take a team approach to the treatment and care of idiopathic scoliosis:

   •    A doctor, nurse, orthotist and physical therapist form the care team for most patients.
   •    The team stresses non-surgical techniques whenever possible, with surgery a last resort. We use the safest and
         most efficacious techniques available.
           -    We emphasize orthotic treatment for the effective control of idiopathic scoliosis.

    •    Our team collaborates to tailor our program to the individual needs of each patient:
          -    We adjust follow-up intervals and the x-ray needs to a child’s risk of a worsening curve.

    •    When needed, we communicate with other disciplines, such as pulmonology (lungs) and neurology (nervous
   •    We provide orthopedic care—including for scoliosis—at Boston Children’s satellite locations, as well as the main
         campus in Boston.
   •    Infants and young children pose special problems with idiopathic scoliosis:
          -    We can often treat babies and children with specially developed non-operative and surgical techniques.
          -    Because we’re internationally known as a leading early-onset scoliosis center, our team is regularly
               consulted by other physicians and families around the globe.

Scoliosis: Reviewed by M. Timothy Hresko, MD
© Boston Children's Hospital, 2014

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