Treatments for Kyphosis in Children

How we'll treat your child's kyphosis depends on the complexity and severity of her condition. Boston Children's Hospital's Spinal Program provides comprehensive treatment—including evaluation, diagnosis, consultation and follow-up care.

What are the goals of kyphosis treatment?

The goals of treatment for kyphosis are:

•   to stop the progression of your child's curve
•   to prevent deformity

Your child's doctor will determine her treatment plan and follow-up based on her x-rays and physical exams. Her treatment will be individualized depending on her age, the degree of curvature and the amount of growing she has yet to do (skeletal growth).

Non-surgical options for kyphosis

As recommended by the Scoliosis Research Society, your child's treatment may include:

Simple observation and monitoring

Once a kyphosis curve has been detected, it's important to monitor the curve as your child grows. The progression of the curve depends upon the amount of skeletal growth your child has remaining. In many cases, her condition may require only close monitoring during skeletal growth. The progression of the curve slows or stops after your child reaches puberty.

Physical therapy

Children's physical therapists work closely with specialists in our Spinal Program to provide exercise regimens and therapies to address the muscular imbalance associated with kyphosis. Exercises involve strengthening the child's core and the musculature of her upper back, shoulder and around the shoulder blades (scapulae).


For children with moderate to severe curves and significant growth remaining, doctors may prescribe a brace: 

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

Your child's doctor will determine the type of brace and the amount of time spent in the brace. The success of a bracing program depends on complying with the custom regimen that your child's doctor develops for her. Typical braces are the Boston Kyphosis brace, which was developed here at Boston Children's, and the Milwaukee brace, which is often worn at night.

Surgical options for kyphosis

Surgery may become necessary if:

•   your child's curve measures 75 degrees or more
•   bracing proves unsuccessful at slowing or stopping the curve from progressing
•   the kyphosis is congenital, involving skeletal malformation (surgery may be needed at an early age)
•   the kyphosis is caused by an infection or tumor

If surgery is needed, our orthopedic surgeons use the most advanced techniques, such as:

•   spinal fusion: the most common surgical procedure for treating more severe cases of kyphosis. Usually, a
    fusion and instrumentation are combined to correct and solidify (fuse) the curve.

What is the long-term outlook for kyphosis?

When treated successfully, kyphosis curves can be corrected, and children can go on to lead normal, active, unrestricted lives. If your child needs surgery, she should be able to walk around in a few days, and return home in about a week. She can go back to school within a month or so, and resume most activities within three to four months. Complete fusion takes about one year.

Your child's doctor will examine your child often to monitor the curve as she grows and develops. Early detection is important. If left untreated, kyphosis can lead to impaired lung function, worsening deformity and pain.

Coping and support

At 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 Hale Family Center for Families for details on:

•   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 kyphosis: Will my child need surgery? Will kyphosis 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 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—How long will my child's 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 kyphosis? 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 feel a need for spiritual support, we'll connect you with the 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.