Like many aspects of growth in young children, healthy development of the spine can vary slightly from child to child with small curves constituting a normal part of spine anatomy. But if curves are observed by a parent, teacher or physician, evaluation for scoliosis is advisable.
Scoliosis is diagnosed as several types:
- Idiopathic Scoliosis: of unknown origin
- Congenital Scoliosis: present at birth, a congenital scoliosis curve is where bones are asymmetrical at birth and the vertebrae may be partially formed (hemivertebra) or wedge-shaped
- Neuromuscular Scoliosis: is symptomatic of a systemic condition (syndromic scoliosis) such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, spinal cord tumors, or paralysis
- Syndromic Scoliosis: a unique group of spine conditions. Diseases such as Marfan’s Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, osteogenesis imperfecta, neurofibromatosis, Prader-Willi Syndrome, arthrogryposis, and Riley-Day Syndrome are some of the common syndromic causes of this condition.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a common musculoskeletal disorder. Although it is thought to be genetic, its true cause is unknown and thought to be a combination of many factors. It is characterized by a curvature of the spine measuring greater than 10°, and has no other symptoms or pain. At 25°, bracing is recommended in growing adolescents, and if the curve progresses to greater than 50°, becomes cosmetically unacceptable, or rapidly progresses, surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity and fuse the spine. Although 2% to 3% of the adolescent population is diagnosed with AIS, less than 10% of these patients require any surgical intervention.
Because AIS is a painless condition, affected adolescents frequently are athletic and participate in physical activities alongside their unaffected peers. In the event that surgery is required, one common concern is the ability to return to athletic activity postoperatively.