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Published on June 14, 2022

pediatrician examining girls spine

Treating Scoliosis in Children

When you were a child, do you remember going to the school nurse’s office for a scoliosis screening? As you bent forward, the nurse placed a small device on your back, measuring the curve of the spine.

For most children, the screening ended quickly and it was back to class. Others got a scoliosis diagnosis.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine. It’s usually a painless condition in children with subtle symptoms. With that in mind, it’s pertinent to ensure your child receives a scoliosis screening, whether in the nurse’s office or by a primary care provider or pediatrician at a well-child visit.

Early diagnosis, when the scoliosis is mild, allows for early intervention with bracing and therapy which can prevent the curve from getting worse, said Geoffrey Haft, MD, a specialized orthopedic surgeon in spine and pediatrics at Avera Orthopedics.

Left untreated, the scoliosis curve could eventually require surgery to treat pain and deformity.

Bracing and Surgery: Scoliosis Treatment Options

Most scoliosis cases are mild and require no treatment. For medium-sized curves in growing children, scoliosis is commonly treated with a brace.

Thankfully, brace technology has evolved over the years. Most braces now wrap discretely around the patient’s torso and are hidden beneath clothes.

Traditional treatment for large scoliosis curves involved fusion surgery with screws and rods inserted into the spine. Fusion surgery for scoliosis has excellent long-term outcomes but does have the drawback of back stiffness. After fusion, patients permanently lose movement where the spine was straightened.

Recently, the FDA gave approval for two new surgical techniques for treatment of adolescent scoliosis: ApiFix and vertebral body tethering. These new techniques are not appropriate for every patient’s scoliosis but have shown promising early results. Many patients have avoided permanent spine fusion with these new technologies, which are offered at Avera.

“Not only do these surgeries preserve the movement of the spine, but also allow the spine to straighten as the patient grows taller,” said Haft.

New X-Ray Technology

Younger patients can also benefit from Avera’s new EOS Low-Dose X-Ray system. This upright imaging technology can scan the entire body and provides the highest quality images with just 10% of the normal radiation dose.

“Children who have to get repetitive X-rays during the course of their childhood can do so much more safely now,” Haft said.

Next Steps for Scoliosis Treatment

If you or your child is diagnosed with scoliosis, schedule an appointment with an Avera specialist:

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