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As a result of research, it has been found that Congenital scoliosis occurs in only 1 in 10,000 newborns. Of those affected, the majority are male. This condition is much less common than idiopathic scoliosis, which usually becomes evident in adolescence.
With congenital scoliosis, the following may occur during the baby’s development in the womb:
- The bones (vertebrae) in the spine may not form normally
- An absence of bones in the spine
- Bones may partially form
- The alignment of bones may reveal unusual separations
In addition to scoliosis curves, a child’s spine may also develop other curves in the opposite direction. These additional curves appear above or below the affected area. Normally these curves help to compensate and maintain an upright posture. At the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute, each parent of the patient becomes well informed of all the options available.
Also, our doctors look at all options and they will always try the most conservative route possible. “Firstly, I involve my patients and their families in the decision-making for their child’s treatment. I carefully tailor the management to their medical & social needs and constraints. In addition, I believe in an informed patient and family, treating every child as I would my own.” Dr. Shyam Kishan
Questions and Answers
What is Congenitial Scoliosis
Congenital scoliosis normally appears at birth. It occurs due to abnormal spinal development during fetal development. The vertebrae may be malformed, fused together, or improperly segmented, leading to an abnormal curvature of the spine. Doctors consider Congenital scoliosis as relatively rare and usually detected early in childhood or during infancy.
What are the Symptoms of Congenital Scoliosis
The symptoms of congenital scoliosis can vary depending on the severity and location of the spinal deformity. Common signs may include an asymmetrical appearance of the back or trunk, uneven shoulder or hip levels, uneven distribution of muscle mass, and spinal deformities visible on physical examination. In some cases, congenital scoliosis can be associated with other congenital abnormalities affecting the heart, kidneys, or other organs.
How is Congenital Scoliosis Diagnosed and Treated
Diagnosis of congenital scoliosis involves a thorough medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies such as X-rays or MRI scans. Treatment options for congenital scoliosis depend on the severity of the curvature, the age of the patient, and the potential for progression. Mild cases may be monitored regularly to track the progression of the curve, while more severe cases may require bracing or surgical intervention. Bracing aims to prevent further progression of the curve during growth, while doctors address surgery for more severe curves to correct the deformity and stabilize the spine.
- Tilted, uneven shoulders, with one shoulder blade protruding more than the other
- A rotation of the neck causes the head to tilt in one direction
- The prominence of the ribs on one side
- Uneven waistline
- One hip higher than the other
- An overall appearance of leaning to the side
- A problem with the spinal cord or nerves that causes weakness, numbness, or a loss of coordination in rare cases
Diagnosing Congenital Scoliosis
In order to diagnose congenital scoliosis, the doctors at Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute will look carefully at the child’s medical history and perform a thorough physical examination. The following provides a list of the methods our doctors use:
- Medical History and Physical Examination: The doctor begins by taking a detailed medical history, including information about the patient’s birth, developmental milestones, and any family history of scoliosis or other spinal conditions. They will conduct a thorough physical examination, observing the patient’s posture, and assessing shoulder and hip levels, and the spine for abnormalities.
- Imaging Studies: X-rays are typically the first-line imaging study used to evaluate spinal deformities. They provide detailed images of the spine, allowing the doctor to measure the curvature angle, identify the specific vertebrae affected, and assess the overall severity of the scoliosis. Technicians can take X-rays in various positions to better understand the flexibility of the spinal curve. We use a 3D low-radiation EOS X-ray machine that offers significant advantages in the field of medical diagnostics — particularly in orthopedics and spine imaging.
- Additional Imaging: In some cases, doctors will order additional imaging studies for a more comprehensive evaluation. These may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or computed tomography (CT) scans. These imaging modalities provide more detailed information about the spinal anatomy.
- Evaluation of Associated Conditions: Our doctors associate congenital scoliosis with other congenital abnormalities affecting other organs or systems. Therefore, the doctor may conduct additional tests or consultations with other specialists, such as cardiologists or geneticists, to assess the patient for any associated conditions.
The treatment options for congenital scoliosis depend on various factors, including the severity and progression of the curvature, the age of the patient, and the presence of associated spinal abnormalities. Here are some common treatment approaches:
Curves less than 25 degrees
For curves less than 25 degrees, we recommend ongoing monitoring by our orthopedic physicians. If our doctors, Richard Hostin, MD, Devesh Ramnath, MD, Ishaq Syed, MD, Shyam Kishan, MD, and Kathryn Wiesman, MD find that the child’s spinal curves are worsening, the doctors may suggest spine bracing. “Because bracing reduces the pressure on your child’s lower back, bracing helps straighten your child’s spine. Thus, the ultimate treatment goal is to prevent the curve from progressing,” states Dr. Hostin.
- Observation and Monitoring: Doctors can manage mild cases of congenital scoliosis that are not rapidly progressing through regular observation and monitoring. The doctor will regularly assess the spinal curvature through physical examinations and imaging studies to track any changes. This approach often takes place with infants and young children who are still growing.
25 to 40-degree Curves
For children with curves between 25 and 40 degrees, the recommended treatment will depend on your child’s individual circumstances. “For example, either spine bracing or spinal surgery may provide the appropriate treatment for your child,” explains Dr. Kishan.
- Bracing: Our doctors recommend bracing for moderate scoliosis curves that have the potential to worsen during periods of rapid growth. The brace helps to prevent further progression of the curve by providing external support to the spine. The type and duration of bracing will vary depending on the individual case. Also, the patient may need periodic follow-up appointments to monitor the effectiveness of the brace.
- Surgery: Severe cases of congenital scoliosis, or those that significantly affect the patient’s quality of life may require surgical intervention. Our doctors consider surgery when everything else has failed to correct the spinal deformity, stabilize the spine, and prevent further progression. Surgical techniques vary depending on the specific spinal abnormalities and may involve spinal fusion. In some cases, we use instrumentation (such as rods, screws, or wires), or a combination of these approaches. The surgical plan is tailored to the individual patient’s needs and is typically conducted by a specialist in pediatric orthopedic or spine surgery.
It’s important to note that the treatment plan for congenital scoliosis is highly individualized. Regular consultations with doctors like us who specialize in spinal disorders will help determine the most appropriate treatment approach. We base our findings totally on the specific characteristics and needs of the patient.
Congenital Scoliosis Surgery
For congenital scoliosis, the most common surgical treatments are implanting growing rods and spinal fusion. However, the determination of which surgery is right for your child will depend on your child’s age and skeletal maturity, After the initial determination, our doctors will consider a host of other medical considerations. Above all, our Scoliosis Doctors will take the time to review all the options with the parents. We want the parents to make an informed decision based on the knowledge we provide to them.
“Because It’s a serious surgery, it’s critically important that we sit down with patients and their families to explain the risks and benefits of each procedure,” Dr. Hostin explains. “Furthermore, I spend significant time in preoperative conversations discussing the risks, the benefits, the possibilities, and what my own personal experience has been over the last 15 years. Therefore, my goal is to make sure the parent has a complete understanding of the risks and the intended outcome.”
Finally, if your child has other health issues — such as heart, lung, or kidney problems — our orthopedic team works with experts in these disciplines to ensure your child gets the comprehensive care they need.
Parents should choose to seek treatment for a child with congenital scoliosis from specialized centers. Our practice offers expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Such centers like the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute with offices in Dallas, Plano, and Frisco, Texas offer a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, which involves a team of specialists, including orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and pain management specialists. Additionally, the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute offers access to advanced diagnostic tools and treatment options, such as minimally invasive surgery and spinal fusion. Patients may also benefit from a personalized treatment plan that takes into account their unique needs and medical history. Ultimately, the decision to seek treatment at a particular medical institution will depend on various factors, but for those wanting to get the very best, we should be considered your first choice.
If you think your child may suffer from scoliosis, call 214-556-0555 to make an appointment to discuss the treatment options we offer.