Specialists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have been treating scoliosis in children and adults of all ages for more than 35 years. They are nationally recognized for their expertise in this area and can handle even the most complex cases.
Scoliosis causes a sideways curve of the spine (backbone). These curves are often s- or c-shaped and can result in the person leaning to one side or having uneven shoulders and hips. Scoliosis is most common in children ages 10 to 15, during growth spurts, but it can also occur in children of any age, as well as in infants and adults.
Expert Diagnosis and Treatment
Since there are different types of scoliosis, patients are thoroughly examined to determine the cause and extent of the curvature. In some cases, curvature can be caused by muscle spasms, inflammation or legs that are different lengths. This is called functional scoliosis, and the curvature can go away if the problem is addressed. In structural scoliosis, the curve is not temporary and treatment will depend on such factors as the severity of the curve and the age of the patient.
To diagnose scoliosis, your doctor will do a thorough physical exam. An X-ray of the spine helps the doctor measure the curve of the spine and see its location, shape and pattern. In rare cases, an MRI may be done to check for a cyst or tumor in the spine.
Patients with mild scoliosis might only need periodic checkups to assess whether the curve is getting worse. Others with a more severe curve may need to wear a brace or have surgery.
Orthopedic braces can be used to help prevent the curve from getting worse during a child's rapid growth. The Spine and Back Center at Rush works with an orthotic company that has more than 35 years of experience working with scoliosis patients, ensuring your child receives a high-quality, custom-made brace that is properly fitted and as comfortable as possible.
Children and adults with a more severe curve often benefit from surgery to straighten the spine. This surgery, called spinal fusion, repositions the spine using a metal rod that is attached to the bones with hooks and screws.
In young children, a growing-rod operation allows for continued growth of the child's spine. The surgical team at Rush was among the first in the country to use this technique.
These rods are attached to the spine in a way that avoids damaging the growth tissues of the spine. The child then returns every six months to have the rods lengthened to keep up with the child's growth. This is usually an outpatient procedure performed through a small incision. Once the child is older and stops growing, these rods are removed and a formal spinal fusion operation is performed.
Adults who require surgery often benefit from physical therapy before surgery to increase their strength and flexibility, which often enables faster and improved recovery. To help with the pre- and postsurgical process, patients who undergo surgery at Rush can also benefit from the comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services available here.
The spine and back team at Rush includes orthopedic spine surgeon Christopher DeWald, MD, who specializes in treating all types of scoliosis. Your care team also includes nurse practitioners Mary Rodts, DNP, CNP, ONC, and Kelsey King, FNP, who are readily available to coordinate timely answers to your questions and to help manage any problems or concerns.