Your pediatrician has detected a curvature in your infant's spine. If left untreated, the curve can become so severe as to affect your child's development. Health problems can arise from the curve which can extend into the child's adult life. Here is why early treatment is so important and some of the current ways that scoliosis is treated.
Rapid Bone Growth Exaggerates the Curve
Your child's bones grow quickly until puberty, when the growth rate slows down. During this period of rapid growth, a small curve in the spine can grow larger, causing the typical "S" shape found with scoliosis. This causes the spine to collapse and create a smaller space in the chest cavity where other organs are growing. The lungs are especially affected and may not be able to expand to their normal size. Children with untreated scoliosis can develop respiratory problems that continue throughout their lives.
Early treatment of the spinal curvature takes advantage of this rapid bone growth. The spine is artificially held in place so it grows straighter. In some cases, scoliosis can be treated non-invasively while others require surgery to make sure the spine remains straight during growth.
The later in life that you start treatment of your child's scoliosis, the harder it will be to stop the progression of the curve. Treatment must continue up to puberty or longer, depending on the extent of the curve and how soon you started the treatment.
Non-Invasive Treatment for Scoliosis
This treatment option uses external braces to hold your child's spine in a straight position as they develop. The supports must be worn constantly, only being taken off when bathing the child. As your child grows, the braces will need to be adjusted to accommodate their changes in size. These will need to be worn at least until puberty, but your doctor may have your child continue wearing the brace at night after that to continue supporting the spine.
Thoraco-Lumbo-Sacral-Orthosis Brace - This is also known as the Boston brace and consists of a fiberglass mold that secures around your child's body with straps. The brace extends from the top of the pelvis to underneath the arms. A mold is first made of your child's body, then modified to put pressure on the spine to hold it straight as your child develops. This brace is used to treat curves in the middle and lower parts of the spine.
Cervico-Thoraco-Lumbo-Sacral-Orthosis Brace - When the spinal curvature occurs high in the spine, this brace, also known as the Milwaukee brace, is used. It extends from the top of the pelvis to under the chin to hold the top of the spine straight. Instead of a plastic mold, metal bars are use to hold the spine in place with this brace.
Surgical Treatment for Scoliosis
If the curve in the spine is already severe in your child, surgery may be used to prevent the curve from becoming worse and impacting the development of the internal organs. The surgery consists of a number of steps, such as:
Your child may also need to wear one of the external braces after the surgery to support their spine further as they grow. For more information, contact C D Denison or a similar organization.
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