Frequently-Asked Questions about congenital scoliosis
Why does it happen? Unfortunately we don’t know
When does it happen? In utero when the fetus is
very, very small and is very early in its development.
What other problems can be associated with
congenital scoliosis? There are three
other organ systems which have high abnormality rates in patients with
congenital scoliosis: heart, kidney and spinal cord. The theory is that during development
something happens at one time point during development that can cause the
congenital scoliosis and the other heart, kidney and spinal cord problems.
How often are these other problems present? In
2019 we published a study looking at this very problem. We reported on 305 patients from Shriners
Hospital, St. Louis and St. Louis Children’s Hospital over a 25-year time span
who had congenital scoliosis. Our
patient population 54% had a heart anomaly, 43% had spinal cord anomaly and 39%
had a urogenital (kidney, bladder, etc…) anomaly.
How to we check for these heart, kidney and
spinal cord problems? Many patients have already had the imaging studies to
check for these problems. If not, then
we need to assess if additional imaging studies are necessary.
What are the imaging studies to look at the
heart? For the heart we order an echocardiogram, a painless study which looks
at the heart function and for any small holes in the heart or valve problems.
What is the imaging study for the kidneys? Renal
What is the imaging study to study the spinal
cord? MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of the entire spinal cord, from the
brain to the sacrum).
This child has a spinal cord syrinx, which is a fluid-filled dilation of the spinal cord, and a Chiari malformation.
Do we always get all three of these studies, for
every patient? Not always. We are more
likely to get these imaging studies in the younger patients, if they have not
already been obtained. In the older
patient, say in adolescence, we may not get an echocardiogram or spinal cord
MRI. This is because if they have been
followed for many years by their primary care physician (who looks at them
annually for school physicals) and they are not having any symptoms related to
the heart or spinal cord, the likelihood of finding something wrong is very,
10 What happens if something abnormal is found on
one of these three imaging studies? It depends.
We usually consult other specialists as to the need for further evaluation
or follow-up (kidney, urologists; spinal cord, neurosurgeon; heart,
More on congenital scoliosis next week…..