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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
How we'll treat your child's scoliosis depends on the complexity and severity of her condition. Whether her scoliosis is idiopathic, neuromuscular or congenital, the Boston Children's Hospital's Spinal Program provides comprehensive treatment — including evaluation, diagnosis, consultation and follow-up care.
Your child’s team at Boston Children’s can include her doctor, orthotist (a specialist who makes braces), physical therapist and nurse, who will guide you through the treatment process. If your child requires bracing, the team will help her adjust to wearing a brace.
The physical therapist will evaluate your child’s posture, muscle strength and flexibility, and will design a home exercise program just for her.
The nurse will help with all your questions and appointments. The nurse can:
• teach your child how to care for herself and her brace
• design a schedule for her to follow
• help her plan her day-to-day activities
• help her meet others who wear braces
Observation and monitoring: Once an abnormal spine curve has been detected, it's important to monitor the curve as your child grows. In many cases, your child's curve may require only close monitoring during skeletal growth. Your physician will determine your treatment plan and follow-up based on your child's X-rays and physical exams.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy often can help scoliosis. The goal of our physical therapy team is to maximize your child's physical functioning. Our therapists work closely with the Spinal Program to provide exercise programs and additional therapies to address any pain and the muscular imbalance that can be associated with spinal abnormalities.
Bracing: If your growing child's curve shows significant worsening or is already greater than 30 degrees, your physician may recommend a bracing program, in which a scoliosis brace is specifically designed for your child's particular curve. The brace holds your child's spine in a straighter position while she's growing to partly correct the curve or prevent it from increasing.
Click here to see our Embrace the Brace Digital Slideshow.
Patients and providers offer advice to help others with scoliosis thrive while wearing a brace.
Casting: In certain situations — as in some cases of early-onset (infantile) scoliosis — body casting is indicated.
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 combines fusion and instrumentation (rods and screws) to correct and solidify the curve.
Thoracoscopic anterior spinal surgery and instrumentation: a minimally invasive approach to spine fusion
Hemivertebra and wedge resections (for congenital scoliosis): removal of the abnormal spine segment and reconstruction of the spine
Spinal osteotomy: controlled breaking or cutting and realigning of bone into a corrected position; may be performed when there is significant rigid deformity
Vertebral column resection: circumferential resection of a portion of the spine to permit correction of the most severe deformities
For younger, growing children:
• dual posterior growing rods (for early-onset scoliosis): control spinal deformity while allowing spinal growth with
• expansion thoracostomy/VEPTR™ (titanium rib) procedure to control 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)
• MAGEC (MAGnetic Expansion Control) System, an adjustable growing rod system that uses magnetic
technology and a remote control to non-invasively lengthen the device
Complications from adolescent idiopathic scoliosis after treatment are uncommon, the most common being back pain and residual curvature. However, if left untreated, adults with moderate or severe scoliosis can have progressively worsening curves that cause cosmetic disfigurement, back pain and, in rare cases, difficulty breathing.
A multidisciplinary high-risk safety program for patients at high risk for infection has reduced the spine infection rate.
Treatment in adulthood after the curve has already become severe may be somewhat less successful than treatment during childhood or adolescence. By treating your child’s progressive curve early, we hope to keep it from becoming a problem in adulthood.
As your child grows, your orthopedist will monitor her curve through regular check-ups. Be sure to follow the regular well-child checkup schedule. Encourage her to participate in sports and/or school activities. These will add greatly to her general health and sense of well-being.
Besides the typical issues any teenager faces — from social acceptance to body changes and more — if you’re undergoing bracing and physical therapy for scoliosis, you’ll also have to deal with medical appointments, feeling different and assuming a big personal responsibility for maintaining your own good health. If your scoliosis is mild or moderate, you may wonder why we need to monitor and treat it, since it may not be painful or bothersome.
It’s important for you to know that if left untreated until you’re an adult, your moderate or severe scoliosis can worsen, resulting in curves that cause cosmetic disfigurement, back pain and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing.
Treatment in adulthood after the curve has already become severe may be somewhat less successful than treatment during adolescence. By treating your progressive curves early, we hope to keep them from becoming problems when you reach adulthood.
It also may help you to know that you can participate in sports and other normal activities; your general health will improve with an active lifestyle. If you’ll be wearing a brace, most braces can be worn, unseen, underneath your clothes and can be removed for sports.
If you feel overwhelmed, depressed or anxious through this important time in your transition to adulthood, speak to your doctor or counselor to get help. Check out Curvy Girls for teens with scoliosis and be sure to find a group in your area.
A hospital visit can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming. Boston Children’s offers amenities to make your hospital experience as pleasant as possible. Visit The Center for Families for information about:
• getting to Boston Children's
• navigating the hospital experience
• resources available for your family
You may have a lot of questions when your child is diagnosed with scoliosis. How will it affect my child long term? What do we do next? We can help you connect with extensive resources to help you and your family, including:
• patient education: From doctor's appointments 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'll
help you coordinate and continue the care and support you received while at Boston Children's.
• parent-to-parent: Do you want to talk with someone whose child has been treated for your child's form of scoliosis?
We often can put you in touch with other families who've been through the same process or procedure that you and
your child are facing, and who will share their experiences. To learn more about Family to Family services, please
• 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
• 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.
• Curvy Girls is a network of peer-to-peer support groups for teens with scoliosis. Click here to find a group in your
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”