What is Scoliosis?

The spine has a natural "S" curve when viewed from the side. The spine is straight when seen from the back. Scoliosis in children may be present when the spine develops curves to the left or right. Below are some scoliosis facts that can help you learn about scoliosis symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Who is at risk for scoliosis?

Approximately one to two percent of children ages 9 to 14 are diagnosed with scoliosis.

"Anyone can be affected by scoliosis," says Dr. Harry Shufflebarger, MD, Director of the Division of Pediatric Spinal Surgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. "However, the likelihood of developing scoliosis is somewhat greater for children whose parents or siblings have the condition."

What are scoliosis symptoms and how is it diagnosed?

The first symptom of scoliosis in children is often uneven shoulders or a protruding shoulder blade that is visible when bending at the waist. If you note this, primary care evaluation is appropriate.

Another scoliosis symptom children may experience is back pain, due to the curving of the spine to the right or left. Early scoliosis symptoms also include uneven shoulders and a protruding shoulder blade. The physician will check for both of these symptoms. If scoliosis is suspected, an X-ray examination can determine the extent of the condition.

What are the consequences of not diagnosing and treating scoliosis?

Children living with scoliosis may experience back pain. In severe cases, scoliosis in children may even result in difficulty breathing, decreased height and lowered self-esteem.

What are scoliosis treatments?

Scoliosis treatments for children depend on the degree of curvature.
  • Children with mild curvatures (less than 25 degrees) may require only regular examinations to follow the progression of the disease. Choosing this method of scoliosis treatment depends partially on the age of the patient.
  • Children with curves from 25 to 30 degrees or who have curves of 20 degrees or more and are still growing may be treated with a brace. The brace is made to meet the individual patient's needs and stop a curve from progressing.
  • If the curve progresses to 45 degrees and has the potential to grow worse, spinal fusion surgery may be recommended.

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Nicklaus Children's Hospital Division of Spine and Scoliosis Surgery is one of only a few programs in the country that specializes in pediatric spinal surgery, featuring a procedure from spinal fusion developed by Harry Shufflebarger, M.D. The procedure utilizes bone graft is required which is usually harvested from the ribs. Two rods are then placed on either side of the spine to correct the scoliosis. The spinal fusion occurs over several months.

"Spinal fusion surgery can be a safe and effective treatment for maintaining correction of severe scoliosis," says Dr. Shufflebarger. "It's very gratifying to have assisted in developing procedures that have improved the quality of life of children living in South Florida and beyond."

Additional Resources

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis
Download the Setting Scoliosis Straight Book (PDF)

Reviewed by: Stephen G George, MD

This page was last updated on: 6/21/2019 2:16:29 AM