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In Good Health: Scoliosis

Scoliosis can impact infants all the way up to the elderly.

Although it may not be painful and shouldn’t affect a kid’s day to day life, it’s important to see a doctor sooner rather than later…

To prevent problems down the road.

Whitney Amann explains what to look out for to know if your child may be suffering for this In Good Health.

“Scoliosis is essentially a twisting and bending of the spine,” said Dr. Eric Krohn, McLaren orthopedic surgeon.

It’s a condition that can affect anyone at any age but the most common form, considered adolescent scoliosis, affects kids 10 to 18 years old.

Doctors say generally, there’s not many signs or symptoms.

“Some people can have pain and some people in very rare cases can have neurologic symptoms but the vast majority don’t notice it until they see an actual twisting and bending of their spine,” he said.

If you notice that in your child, it’s important to take them to get screened by their doctor.

“Essentially, the child just bends forward and a device is used to measure the angle of the spine,” said Dr. Krohn. “Essentially, though, if any real asymmetry is shown, when the kid bends forward or the child bends forward, then we generally advance to x-rays to confirm the diagnosis.”

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the curve.

“So 3% of people have a curve that is 30 degrees or less and about 3% of people have a curve greater than 30 degrees,” he said. “Under 30 degrees is considered a mild case and a lot of times we can treat with just observation, over 30 degrees is when we start talking about bracing and then vastly over 30 degrees is when we sometimes talk about surgery as well.”

Dr. Krohn says the Boston Brace is the only one proven to be effective.

“Bracing is only effective when a child is growing and in this population the 10 to 18 year olds, that is one of their peak growth velocities and so that is the time when bracing can be effective,” he said. “As they approach skeletal maturity, bracing becomes less and less effective. Bracing is essentially using the growth in the spine to correct the deformity and so if you don’t have any growth left, the brace will not be effective.”

He says the causes of scoliosis still aren’t clear.

“While there is a genetic predisposition for scoliosis, we are not 100% sure of the actual cause,” he said. “The running theory right now is actually that the growth plates in the spine grow asymmetrically and then because of the differential pressures on the growth plate, that actually causes them to grow more asymmetrically so it’s kind of like a vicious cycle.”

While you can’t prevent any sort of curve from developing, doctors can prevent the curve from advancing to a point of surgery or bracing…

“One thing I would like everyone to know that the most important thing is intervention as early as possible,” he said.

Keeping kids and adults, active and comfortable.

“Mild scoliosis curves shouldn’t affect the kid’s day to day life and even in the more severe curves where we’re talking about bracing and sometimes surgery, these kids generally are able to remain active as they were before,” said Dr. Krohn. “It’s usually to avoid consequences later in life that we talk about surgery.

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