Congenital Scoliosis

Congenital Scoliosis #4 

1.     How much will the congenital scoliosis change with growth?

a.      Plain radiographs and MRI may be able to predict spinal growth and the chance of developing a spinal deformity or its speed of progression (worsening) in some patients.  This is more likely if there is a single area of abnormal vertebral development.  If there is more than one location, then predicting spinal growth or the risk or progression of spine deformity becomes less and less precise.

Simple: Single
Hemivertebra           Complex: Multiple hemivertebra
and bars

Will my child grow normally?

Half a person’s body height comes from their
legs, the other half from their spine.
If the child’s legs are normal, then the legs will grow normally, which
is determined by their genetics.

The other half of a person’s height comes from
their spine and head. 

congenital scoliosis the vertebra are abnormally developed and have altered
growth.  The vertebra affected will never
grow normally.  At present, we cannot
make them grow normally, with or without surgery.

is typically difficult to prognosticate early in the child’s life the amount of
spinal shortening or development of spinal deformity that will occur. 

So, if the spine will never be “normal” height what
will that mean for the child?

Their maybe some impact on the appearance of the
child’s proportions between the body and the legs.  The body may appear shorter and the legs
longer, proportionally, when compared to other children.

The most significant issue is this decreased
growth is the lungs and smaller volume of the lungs.  The lungs will not have the same space to
grow maximally.  The less vertical growth
of the child, the less volume of the lungs will develop.  Smaller lung volumes as a child don’t
typically cause much impact, but in an adult can cause issues with breathing,
respiratory infections, shortness of breath, etc….

3d reconstructions of lungs in a patient with congenital scoliosis

What can be done to maximize the growth of the
spine and the lungs?

This is where it is crucial to work with a
pediatric spine deformity surgeon closely.

It is important to identify the location of the
congenital deformity and the type of congenital scoliosis, using plain
radiographs, and sometime MRI.

Routine, scheduled follow-up with spine
radiographs is essential.  Changes in the
spine usually are difficult to see with your eyes alone.  Radiographs are essential to follow to
identify the development of spinal deformity (scoliosis, kyphosis or both), and
its progression.

If there is a low magnitude (small) of the spine
deformity, and it doesn’t progress/worsen, then observation is typically
recommended.  This is ideal.

However, if there is a high magnitude (big)
deformity and/or there is significant progression then an
intervention/treatment is often the best option.

It is important to remember that every child and
spine deformity is unique.  The pediatric
spine deformity surgeon must look at the entire child, not just the spine
problem to optimize treatment recommendations.
This means some treatments and surgeries may be preferred in some
children, but not others.

So if the child has a large magnitude congenital
scoliosis and/or it is significantly progressing, what are the treatment

Large magnitude curve

In general, the main nonsurgical option is
observation.  The prevailing opinion
amongst pediatric spinal deformity surgeons is that bracing does not change the
natural history of the congenital scoliosis.
I agree with this perspective.
However, sometimes casting and bracing may be an option to guide the
growth of the “normal” part of the spine.

Casting of 3 year old with congenital scoliosis

The other treatment option is surgery.

Next week’s blog post will discuss surgical options for congenital

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