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Pediatric Scoliosis & Spinal Deformities

What Is Pediatric Scoliosis?

Pediatric Scoliosis is a fairly uncommon condition that affects normal spine growth and development in children, adolescents, and teens. Pediatric scoliosis comes in many shapes, sizes, and severities and often presents itself around the ages of 10-12. Typically, this onset is closely connected with the growth spurts that correspond with puberty.

Keep in mind, however, that pediatric scoliosis can present anywhere within this timeline of development—from in utero through the teenage years. Yes, you heard that right. Doctors can even detect scoliosis in utero through the use of advanced imaging technologies.

Furthermore, this diversity in age of onset can result from a variety of causes and lead to a diversity of symptoms.

Three Main Types of Pediatric Scoliosis

Infants, children, adolescents, and teens can be affected by 3 primary types of pediatric scoliosis. These subtypes may include:

Idiopathic Scoliosis: Idiopathic Scoliosis is probably the most common, yet least definable form, of Pediatric Scoliosis. Idiopathic generally means that the precipitating factor or cause of scoliosis is unknown. Doctors speculate that a combination of influences, including genetics, environmental factors, and nutrition, contribute to the development of idiopathic scoliosis.

Congenital Scoliosis: Congenital Scoliosis results from a deformity that presents at birth or even in utero. The source often stems from our genetic makeup or incomplete/improper development of the vertebrae. Although congenital scoliosis may be present at birth, signs of the condition may not appear until the child reaches adolescence.

Neuromuscular Scoliosis: An abnormality in the neurological or muscular anatomy of the back causes Neuromuscular Scoliosis. Because our nerves and muscles are crucial in maintaining a strong and straight spine, compromise to these structures can jeopardize the spine. Neuromuscular conditions such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy often cause neuromuscular scoliosis.

How Do I Know If My Child Has The Symptoms Of Pediatric Scoliosis?

If your child has pediatric scoliosis, you may notice the following warning signs or symptoms:

  • Unhealthy Curvature:  The spine will either gradually or quickly begin to curve and/or twist in a direction that is unhealthy. This curvature may or may not be noticeable to those around the person.
  • Uneven Appearance: An imbalanced appearance in the body may appear. This may present as uneven lengths in the legs, shoulders, or hips.
  • Fanning Shoulder Blades: The shoulder blades typically sit flush, or mostly flush, with the back. In cases of scoliosis, one or both of these shoulder blades may begin to fan out behind the individual.
  • Hunching Over: Sometimes an abnormal curve may not be visible, but an observable hunch can begin to persist.
  • Pain or Other Somatic Symptoms: When the scoliotic curve is severe or progressing quickly, pain and discomfort can occur. In severe cases, the individual’s lungs and circulatory system can be affected, leading to trouble with breathing, dizziness, and other troubling symptoms.

How Is Pediatric Scoliosis Diagnosed?

Scoliosis screening is a regular event both at school and in regular check-ups with a pediatrician. Most of us have had some experience with this. In elementary school, the school nurse checked our spine by having us bend forward to inspect our spinal curvature. When abnormalities are detected, there are several accompanying steps in identifying and diagnosing a case of scoliosis.

  • Your doctor will complete a thorough medical history, taking family and personal history into account.
  • Your physician will complete a visual and physical exam of the spine and related structures, including a comparison of shoulder, hip, and leg levels. If easily visible, a measurement of the curve of the spine will be taken using a specialized scale.
  • Likewise, your doctor will take X-rays to enable a clear view of the spine and identify the exact location and degree of curvature. For curves between 10 – 25 degrees, your doctor will likely choose to monitor the spine over time, watching for advances in curvature. For curves more than 25 degrees, actions or treatments may be necessary. An orthopedic surgeon will help you evaluate and determine the best course of treatment for your child.

How Dr. Lowenstein Can Help

With pediatric scoliosis especially, accurate diagnosis and prompt intervention can prevent your child’s curvature from worsening. Scoliosis bracing, growing rods, vertebral body tethering, and even spinal fusion surgery can correct or halt scoliosis progression.

With a variety of minimally invasive and cutting-edge treatments from which to choose, you deserve an orthopedic surgeon who has earned their reputation for providing the highest quality of scoliosis care. With fellowship training and over 18 years of experience, Dr. Jason Lowenstein delivers exactly this. A decorated scoliosis specialist, active participant in the Scoliosis Research Society, and recipient of NJ’s Favorite Kids Doc Award by New Jersey Family Magazine, you can trust that your child’s spine is in skilled hands with Dr. Jason Lowenstein.