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Kyphosis in Children

  • If your child or teen has been diagnosed with kyphosis (also known as hyper-kyphosis), we know that you and your family are concerned. At Boston Children’s Hospital, we’ll approach your child’s treatment with sensitivity and support—for your child and your whole family.

    Whether your child’s condition is mild or more severe, you can have peace of mind knowing that the team in Boston Children’s Spinal Program has treated a large volume of spinal problems that few pediatric hospitals have ever seen—and we can provide expert diagnosis, treatment and care.

    What to know about kyphosis

    Some degree of kyphosis — a forward curve in the upper spine—is a normal shape. In fact, the normal spine can bend from 20 to 45 degrees of curvature in the upper back (thoracic) area—an acceptable range. 

    But if your child's curvature reaches 50 degrees or greater, it’s considered abnormal kyphosis—a forward curvature of the back bones (vertebrae) in the upper back area, giving your child an abnormally rounded or "humpback" appearance.

    Here are some additional facts about kyphosis:

    • Kyphosis is more common in girls than in boys.
    • Most cases of kyphosis are mild and require only close monitoring by a doctor until the child has stopped growing.
    • Kyphosis can be congenital (present at birth) or associated with other conditions, including:
      • metabolic disorders
      • neuromuscular conditions
      • congenital skeletal malformation
      • osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease)—a condition that causes bones to fracture with minimal force
      • spina bifida
      • Scheuermann's disease—a condition that causes the vertebrae to wedge together and curve forward in the upper back area. The cause of Scheuermann's disease is unknown and is commonly seen in early-adolescent boys.
    • A diagnosis of kyphosis is usually made by x-ray.
    •  Treatment can range from simple observation to bracing to surgery.
    • Severe cases can cause pain and, if left untreated, can cause impaired lung function, worsening deformity and pain.

    Boston Children's Hospital approach to kyphosis

    Boston Children’s Spinal Program is known for clinical innovation, research and leadership. We offer the most advanced diagnostics and treatments—several of which were pioneered and developed by our own researchers and clinicians. We have an experienced team of expert spinal physicians who can assess—and determine the best treatment for—your child’s kyphosis.

    One of the first comprehensive programs of its kind, Boston Children’s Orthopedic Center is the largest and busiest pediatric orthopedic surgery center in the United States, performing more than 6,000 surgical procedures each year. Our program, ranked #1 in the country by U.S.News & World Report, is the nation’s preeminent care center for children and young adults with developmental, congenital, neuromuscular and post-traumatic problems of the musculoskeletal system.

    Each year, our Spinal Program caregivers provide comprehensive evaluation, diagnosis, consultation, treatment and follow-up care for children during more than 6,000 outpatient visits. And every year, our orthopedic surgeons perform more than 300 spine procedures on babies, children, adolescents and young adults.

    Reviewed by M. Timothy Hresko, MD

    © Boston Children’s Hospital, 2012

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