Treatments for Spine problems in Children

How we'll treat your child's spinal problem depends on the complexity and severity of her condition. Whether her spinal condition is congenital-, idiopathic- or neuromuscular-related, the Boston Children's Hospital Spinal Program provides comprehensive treatment—including evaluation, diagnosis, consultation and follow-up care.

Non-surgical options for spine problems

Simple observation and monitoring:

Once an abnormal spine curve has been detected, it's important to monitor the curve as the child grows. In many cases, your child's spinal condition may need only close monitoring during skeletal growth. Your physician will determine your child's treatment plan and follow-up based on her x-rays and physical exams.

Physical therapy:

Some spinal problems are helped by physical therapy. Our physical therapy team's goal is to maximize our young patients' physical functioning. Our physical therapists work closely with specialists in our Spinal Program to also provide exercise programs and additional therapies to address the pain and muscular imbalance that can be associated with spinal abnormalities.


Bracing can be an important part of treating spinal problems. For example:

•   In neuromuscular scoliosis, bracing helps positioning and function.
•   In idiopathic scoliosis, bracing can help control or correct curves. The brace holds your child's spine in a straighter
    position while she's growing in order to partly correct the curve or prevent it from increasing. A bracing program
    may help avoid surgery.


Casting is commonly used for early-onset (infantile) idiopathic scoliosis.

Surgical options for spine problems

If surgery becomes necessary, our Spinal Program's orthopedic surgeons use the most advanced surgical techniques for correcting spinal problems, such as:

Spinal fusion: the most common surgical procedure for treating spinal problems Usually, a fusion and instrumentation are combined to correct and solidify the curve.
Dual posterior growing rods (for early-onset scoliosis): for younger, growing children, this technique  controls spinal deformity while allowing spinal growth with periodic lengthenings
Expansion thoracostomy/VEPTR™ (titanium rib): this procedure controls chest and spine deformity while permitting growth of both chest and spine

Vertebral stapling: a minimally-invasive surgical alternative to bracing for scoliosis in some circumstances

Coping and Support

At Boston Children's, we understand that a hospital visit can be difficult, and sometimes overwhelming. So we offer many amenities to make your child's—and your own—hospital experience as pleasant as possible. Visit The Center for Families for everything you need to know about:

•   getting to Boston Children's   
•   accommodations
•   navigating the hospital experience
•   resources that are available for your family

In particular, we understand that you may have a lot of questions when your child is diagnosed with a spine problem.  How will it affect my child long term? What do we do next? We can help you connect with a number of resources to help you and your family through this difficult time, including:


•   patient education: From the office visit to pre-op to the recovery room to physical therapy and recovery, our
    nurses and physical therapists will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer any
    questions you may have—Will my child need surgery? How long will her recovery take? How should we manage       
    home exercises and therapy?
We will help you coordinate and continue the care and support you received while
    at Children's.
•   parent-to-parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has been treated for a spinal problem? We can often
    put you in touch with other families who've been through the same procedure or process that you and your child
    are facing, and who will share their experiences.
•   faith-based support: If you're in need of spiritual support, we'll connect you with the
    Boston Children's chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy—representing Protestant, Jewish,
    Muslim, Catholic and other faith traditions—who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your
    own faith practices during your hospital experience.
•   social work: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation.
    We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child's diagnosis, stresses relating to
    coping with illness and dealing with financial issues.