Children’s spines grow as they do, and while the spine is naturally curved from front to back, some children will develop a sideways curve, a condition known as scoliosis.
This spine disorder is most often diagnosed in adolescents, and a majority are identified as having adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which means no known cause. Other types of scoliosis are congenital, which is present at birth, or neuromuscular, which is associated with neurological or muscular diseases such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.
Ryan P Farmer, MD, orthopedic surgeon with Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital, shares what parents need to know about scoliosis.
How Common Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis affects around 2-3 percent of the population. The primary age of onset is 10-15 years old, with mild curves affecting boys and girls equally, according to the National Scoliosis Foundation. Girls are eight times more likely to progress to a curve size requiring treatment.
What Causes Scoliosis?
Most cases of scoliosis have no known cause, and currently there is no way to prevent it. Though bad posture and heavy backpacks can be associated with other spine and back conditions, they do not cause scoliosis.
Scoliosis does tend to run in families, but many cases are very mild and may have gone unnoticed in other family members. It is also possible for a child to be the first in the family to develop scoliosis.
Early Diagnosis and Treatments
Scoliosis is often treatable when diagnosed early enough. The diagnosis is usually confirmed by a thorough physical exam and full spine X-ray. The degree of the spinal curvature is then measured on the radiograph with higher degrees indicating more severe deformity.
Many patients don’t require treatment other than monitoring and observation. About 0.3 percent of patients diagnosed with scoliosis will require treatment with about 10 percent of those patients actually requiring surgery.
When children are still growing, an external torso brace may be used to prevent scoliosis from becoming worse. Brace treatment should not limit the child’s activities.
The two primary goals of scoliosis surgery in children are to stop the curve from progressing and to diminish spinal deformity. Spinal fusion is a type of surgery that stops the curve from progressing but limits motion.
Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital was the first location in Louisiana to perform a new spinal surgery treatment for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Called the ApiFix procedure, the surgery is a less invasive, motion-preserving option for achieving spinal curve correction in select patients.
The strength of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health network enabled this groundbreaking surgery to come to Louisiana. Baton Rouge-based pediatric orthopedic surgeon John Faust, MD led the team that included surgeons Dr. Farmer, who primarily practices at Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Lafayette, and Baton Rouge-based Brad Culotta, MD. These pediatric orthopedic surgeons from Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health collaborated on this successful surgery, and the patient is thriving.