Scoliosis in Children

Riley Hospital for Children is helping to bring awareness and better treatment options for this spinal deformity

  • Idiopathic Scoliosis is an abnormal sideward curvature of the spine with no known cause.
  • It affects an estimated 7 million people in the United States, most commonly girls.
  • One out of every six children diagnosed with scoliosis will eventually require active medical treatment.

National Scoliosis Awareness month, advocated by the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), will help to educate children, parents and health care providers about scoliosis. As a SRS member, I worked to have Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, declare June Scoliosis Awareness Month in Indiana. Our goal is to help others understand, recognize and treat the complexities of spinal deformities such as scoliosis.

How do I know if my child has Scoliosis?

The primary age of onset for adolescent scoliosis is between ten and 15 years of age. Scoliosis is sometimes discovered by family members during summer when children are in swimwear, or when they bend over to pick up something. For example the right back portion of the ribs would be more prominent if the child has a right side curve in the spine.

You might also notice that your child’s shoulder is a bit more elevated on one side compared to the other. Another indication may be when one hip is more prominent than the other. Young children may sit leaning to a side.

Your health care provider can help screen your child and determine if scoliosis is present. Screening programs allow for detection and treatment opportunities, which could help alleviate the worst effects of having scoliosis.

Treatment for Scoliosis

At Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, our surgical spine program offers the most advanced treatment options in the state. Treatment depends both on the size of the curvature of the spine and the age of the patient.

In Adolescent Scoliosis, when the patient is not fully developed, treatment includes observation for curves under 25 degrees, bracing to prevent further progression for curves between 25 and 45 degrees, and surgical intervention for curves over 45 - 50 degrees.

Surgical treatment options include spinal fusion, where a metal rod is used to hold the spine into the newly correct place. In younger patients, Riley at IU Health is the only hospital in the state to offer spinal deformity correction with a “Growing Rod,” which actually helps the spine grow while holding the curve.

In addition, Riley at IU Health is the only hospital in the state offering casting as a treatment option for young children with Scoliosis. In a certain number of young patients, casting can actually reverse and cure Scoliosis. In others, it certainly helps delay any surgical intervention.

For children younger than 3 years, we begin treatment much sooner, for curvatures that measure over 20 degrees. This is because such Early Onset Scoliosis can place restrictions on the chest and lung development that could cause problems later in life. Untreated, such Scoliosis can significantly impact your young child’s lifespan, so it’s important to be screened and receive treatment from an early age. 

You can find more information about Scoliosis at The Scoliosis Research Society, The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and The Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program


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