Scoliosis in children

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

If your children have scoliosis then the treatment plan that they have will be tailored around their age, the severity of the curve and the rate at which it is getting worse. In most cases they will not need treatment, however, a small number of patients will have to have surgery to correct the abnormal curve in their spine.

Doctors will always suggest a more conservative (less invasive) method of treatment before they considering offering surgery, as this is always the last option.

This includes:

Monitoring- for young children with scoliosis, they will often be left to grow, in the hope that the curve will correct itself naturally, however if it does not correct itself then there is a that there will not be enough space for organs. If this is the case, then regular examinations and scans can be done to monitor any changes and decide if any treatment needs to be done to correct the curve. Monitoring can also be recommended for older patients as it can be used to assess whether the curve is changing over time.

Wearing a cast- this is a treatment that can be used to help straighten the spine of young toddlers or babies as they grow. This often involves wearing a plaster cast that is made to specifically fit their back. Once the cast is fitted it cannot be removed and is changed every few months to ensure that the child has enough space to grow. As the child gets older, they may change to a back brace, however, most parents say that a cast is easier as it cannot be removed.

Back brace- if the curve on the spine is getting noticeably worse, it may be recommended for your child to wear a back brace while they are still growing. Although this will not correct the curve, it can help to slow down the progression of the curve. Some scoliosis specialists do not recommend the use of a back brace as some people are still uncertain as to the benefits that the brace has. If your child is given a brace it will usually be made with a hard plastic that is custom made to specifically fit your child, they will be expected to wear it around 23 hours a day usually only have to remove it when washing. When your child reaches the age of 16 or 17, they will have stopped growing, so a back brace will not be necessary anymore.

Exercise and physical therapies- by taking part in regular exercise, it can help to improve the muscle strength, which can help to reduce back pain that is caused by scoliosis. It is important to check that you are fit for all exercise, to ensure that you do not do any further damage; so always check with your specialist first. It is not clear if physical therapies such physiotherapy are beneficial to a patient with scoliosis, so it is not recommended by everyone.

Surgery- Surgery may be suggested if your condition react well to the more conservative methods of treatments that have been highlighted above. The surgery option that your child is offers will depend on their age.

For children, usually under the age of ten, they will have a procedure that involves having a metal rod inserted along their spine, that will help to stop the curve getting worse as they grow. Once your child has had this surgery, they will have to have regular follow up appointments to lengthen the rode. This can either be done during the procedure, where a small incision is made to extend the rod. This can also be done using a remote that activities magnets in the rod; meaning no surgery is required.

For teenagers or young adults that have stopped growing, they will have a major operation to straighten their back, which can be left in place for life. This is done using rods, screws, hooks and wires as well as bits of bone that are taken from other parts of the body like the hips. As this is major surgery, it often means that your child will have to stay in the hospital for around a week after the surgery and spend a few weeks off from school to ensure that it is healed to a good level.

After both of these surgeries, it may still be recommended that your child wears a back brace to ensure that it is protected while it is still healing.

Like any surgery, there are risks that are associated with this, however, in most cases the benefits will outweigh the risks. All of this information will be discussed with your doctor before you go ahead with the surgery. Some of the most common risks include:

· Bleeding

· Infection

· Movement of the rod or metalworking, meaning that the surgery may have to be repeated

· In very rare cases nerve damage to the spine may happen

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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