Scoliosis is a vertebral malformation where the spine curves and twists from side to side instead of growing straight.
It is most often found in girls in their early teens, but boys may have it, too. No one is sure what causes scoliosis, but it does tend to run in families.
Early diagnosis is important because, often, progression of the curve can be prevented with proper bracing.
A doctor, specifically an Orthopedist, will suggest the best treatment for a child with scoliosis based on the age, how much more likely the child is to grow and the size and type of the spinal curve. The three types of treatment for scoliosis are:
Often diagnosed in childhood, some curvatures are small enough that physicians simply watch for changes or worsening of the curve, rather than treating.
These children are monitored every six months and their curves are generally not treated unless they progress. Curves are measured using an X-ray and measuring the curve in angular degrees.
The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the spinal curve. As curvatures increase, bracing is a first step in treatment.
Bracing is used on slightly more significant curves, between 20 degrees and 40 degrees of curve. The brace is made of plastic and is specially fitted to each person.
To be effective, the brace is worn under clothing and is taken off for only one hour every day.
Curves generally worsen during years of significant growth. If bracing during those years of most growth does not halt curve progression, surgery is the next step.
During surgery the spine is straightened as much as possible, metal rods are placed along the spine and each vertebrae is fused.