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Scoliosis


Alternative Names:

Spinal curvature; Infantile scoliosis; Juvenile scoliosis

Causes:

Most of the time, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. It is the most common type. It is grouped by age.

  • In children age 3 and younger, it is called infantile scoliosis.
  • In children age 4 through 10, it is called juvenile scoliosis.
  • In children age 11 through 18, it is called adolescent scoliosis.

Scoliosis most often affects girls. Some people are more likely to have curving of the spine. Curving generally gets worse during a growth spurt.

Other types of scoliosis are:

  • Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is present at birth. It occurs when the baby’s ribs or spine bones do not form properly.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis: This type is caused by a nervous system problem that affects the muscles. Problems can include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and polio.
Support Groups:

Seek support and more information from organizations that specialize in scoliosis.

Outlook (Prognosis):

How well  a person with scoliosis does depends on the type, cause, and severity of the curve. The more severe the curving, the more likely it will get worse after the child stops growing.

People with mild scoliosis do well with braces. They usually do not have long-term problems.  Back pain may be more likely when the person gets older.

Outlook for those with neuromuscular or congenital scoliosis varies. They may have another serious disorder such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, so their goals are much different. Often the goal of surgery is simply to allow a child to be able to sit upright in a wheelchair.

Congenital scoliosis is difficult to treat and usually requires many surgeries.

Possible Complications:

Complications of scoliosis can include:

  • Breathing problems (in severe scoliosis)
  • Low back pain
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Persistent pain if there is wear and tear of the spine bones
  • Spinal infection after surgery
  • Spine or nerve damage from an uncorrected curve or spinal surgery
When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your health care provider if you suspect your child may have scoliosis.

Prevention:

Routine scoliosis screening is now done in middle schools.

Such screening has helped detect early scoliosis in many children.

References:

Thomas MA, Wang Y. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 143.

Warner WC, Sawyer JR, Kelly DM. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 41.


Review Date: 8/22/2013
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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