All About Scoliosis in Children in Los Angeles, CA

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that typically develops during the growth period occurring just prior to puberty. While the condition can develop later in life due to injury or a related spinal irregularity, it’s more common in children. Nearly 30,000 surgeries are performed on adolescents each year in the United States because of an abnormal curvature of the spine. However, there are treatment options for scoliosis that don’t involve surgery.

What Types of Scoliosis May Affect Children?

More likely to progress in girls than boys, scoliosis is a genetic neuromuscular condition. It’s not entirely clear why some children develop the abnormality and others don’t. Even with 3 million new cases being diagnosed each year, scoliosis is still considered a rare condition. Usually affecting children 11 to 18 years of age, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common form of the condition seen in younger patients. Children may also develop the following types of scoliosis:

  • Infantile idiopathic scoliosis – Affects children from birth to 3 years of age
  • Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis – Common in children ages 4 to 10
  • Congenital scoliosis – Caused by a failure of the spine to properly develop
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis – Linked to brain, spinal cord, or muscular system disorders
  • Syndromic scoliosis – Results from an underlying condition or disorder

How Is Scoliosis Diagnosed in Children?

The Adam’s forward bend test is a common way to spot early signs of scoliosis. Performed by bending forward and reaching down, the test can indicate whether or not there is an abnormal curvature of the spine. This test is often done in schools by a nurse, usually starting in the fifth or sixth grade. Additional physical and neurological testing may involve:

  • Plumb line test – Visual check to see if the spine is straight
  • A scoliometer – Used to measure the size and shape of any rib lumps observed
  • Leg length measuring – Measuring of leg length to detect abnormalities
  • Palpation – Testing by feeling the lumbar or rib muscles to see if one side is more prominent than the other
  • Range of motion testing – Testing to determine the extent a child is able to do flexion movements, lateral bending, and spinal rotation

Imaging tests are often performed to determine the extent of the curve once an abnormality has been detected with a visual examination. Tests of this nature typically include X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs to get a full picture of how the spine, related structure, and nearby soft tissues are affected.

What Treatment Options Might Be Recommended?

Treatment for scoliosis depends on the extent of the curvature of the spine. With mild cases, periodic observation that sometimes includes X-rays may be all that’s necessary. In some cases, spinal bracing may be recommended to encourage the spine to develop normally and minimize the progression of the curvature.

When Is Surgery Necessary?

If scoliosis is severe with a curvature that is causing pain or limiting movement, a professional spine surgeon may recommend spine surgery. Los Angeles families may want to consider surgery if their child has scoliosis and the curve is 45 to 50 degrees or higher. Spinal fusion, the procedure commonly performed on patients with scoliosis, has a high success rate, and minimally invasive techniques are often used today to reduce risks.

The good news for parents is that scoliosis in children is often mild and rarely requires surgery. In fact, with early diagnosis and treatment, children with the condition are often able to enjoy their preferred activities with little or no discomfort. Avoiding sugary drinks and snacks and salty foods and getting regular exercise may minimize scoliosis symptoms. Managing weight can also be helpful.

If you’re concerned about your child having scoliosis, reach out to The Spine Institute today to find out what the options are for treatment, which may include non-surgical remedies or minimally invasive spinal surgery. Los Angeles families can place their trust in our expert surgeons. To schedule an appointment, call 310-828-7757 today.