Testing & Diagnosis for Kyphosis in Children

At Boston Children's Hospital, we know that the first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis.

Most cases of kyphosis are detected by a child’s parents or pediatrician, or by school screenings. Once kyphosis is detected, doctors use medical and family histories, physical exams (including measurement of the curve) and diagnostic tests to determine the nature and extent of your child’s condition.

Diagnosing kyphosis is usually done by x-rays that measure and evaluate the degree of spinal curvature. A determination for treatment can often be made based on this measurement.

Less often, diagnostic testing can include:

•   MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer
    to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. This test is done to rule out any associated
    abnormalities of the spinal cord and nerves.

•   CT or CAT scan (computerized tomography scan): uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to
    produce cross-sectional images (“slices”), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed
    images of any part of the body, including bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general

•   bone scan: evaluates any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints; detects bone diseases and tumors;
    determines the cause of bone pain or inflammation; rules out infection or fractures

•   blood tests (not standard—blood tests are used to look for associated metabolic conditions)

•   pulmonary function tests (only needed if breathing is affected)

In addition, routine school screenings will sometimes detect kyphosis in children, even if they have no symptoms (this is called being “asymptomatic”). Detecting kyphosis early is important for successful treatment.