Scoliosis is an irregular sideways curve of the spine that commonly affects children and adolescents. The curve of a spine with scoliosis is often shaped like the letter "S" or "C." Curves can be at risk for increasing in size depending on the initial size of the curve when diagnosed and a child's current stage of growth.  Increases in the size of the curve may occur particularly during growth spurts.

Types of Scoliosis

There are three general types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic Scoliosis is the most common form of the condition. The exact cause is unknown, but may be genetic in up to one-third of cases. Idiopathic scoliosis is divided into three categories: infantile (infants to age 3), juvenile (ages 3-10) and adolescent (over age 10, which is the most common).  
  • Neuromuscular Scoliosis occurs related to an underlying neurologic or muscular condition, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
  • Congenital Scoliosis relates to vertebrae in the spine that are abnormally shaped at the time of a child's birth, which causes a curvature of the spine.

Scoliosis Treatment Options

The NorthShore Orthopeadic Institute offers a variety of non-surgical and surgical options to treat scoliosis, including:

Observation

Most mild curves do not require treatment other than close observation to make sure the curve is not worsening, which is most important during periods of growth. This may involve follow up examinations and measurements using a Scoliometer level, which helps reduce the need for X-rays if a curve is stable.

Bracing  

Moderate curves in children with significant remaining growth are at risk for worsening, but in most cases can be successfully treated with a brace to halt further progression.  Bracing is proven to be effective when worn properly. Some curves require the brace to be worn full-time, but others may only require the brace to be worn at night.

Casting

For infants and young children with early onset scoliosis, serial casting can be performed to correct curves, and even lead to curve resolution, if started at any early stage. 

Surgery

Severe curves may require surgery to straighten and stabilize the spine. Surgeons at the NorthShore Spine Center employ the latest technologies to allow for precise accuracy and shorter procedures, and improve outcomes and recovery. Modern instrumentation and the latest correction techniques allow for better curve correction, preservation of motion segments in uninvolved areas and eliminate the need for bracing after surgery. Image-guided surgery allows surgeons have better visualization of a patient’s spine using 3D images constructed from CT scans taken before surgery. These scans are then used in real-time during surgery to enhance surgical precision, outcomes and safety.

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