A troublesome — but treatable — spinal disorder
In a child, it may first appear as a slight leaning to one side. Or one shoulder, maybe one hip, is higher than the other. Its appearance may be even more subtle: Maybe more space is visible between the arm and the body on one side.
Scoliosis is a lateral, or sideways, curvature of the vertebrae. Many cases are mild and do not require treatment, but some children with scoliosis should be monitored closely with physical examinations and x-rays. Early detection in children is key.
“If the curvature is detected in an early stage it can sometimes be controlled with a brace, thus avoiding the need for surgery,” says Kim Hammerberg, MD, an orthopedic spinal surgeon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. “The brace does not necessarily correct the curvature, but it can prevent the curve from getting any worse.”
Scoliosis may appear at any age, but it most commonly appears in young adolescents. As children enter adolescence, girls are five to eight times more likely to need treatment. It frequently runs in families. Scoliosis is usually not painful in adolescence, but it can become so in adulthood and can lead to heart and lung problems.
If a brace does not keep a child’s curvature from worsening, surgery is an option. The most common surgery is a posterior spinal fusion and bone graft, which uses instrumentation, or metal implants, to hold the spinal correction in place.
Surgeons at the Spine and Back Center at Rush have always been on the leading edge of surgical treatments for correcting scoliosis and other spine disorders, and starting this spring it will be the only center in the Chicago area to offer instrumentation surgery using a titanium rib. This type of surgery delays the need for bone fusion and hopefully allows for additional growth before fusion is performed. It’s a giant leap forward in treating scoliosis in young children.
“The primary implication for this particular device is in a very young child, maybe age three or four, with a very severe deformity, most likely some form of congenital scoliosis,” Hammerberg says. “The titanium rib is brand-new. It’s very exciting.”
To make an appointment with our team of back and spine specialists, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).