Diagnosis of Scoliosis
X-rays are taken to determine the amount of curvature and rotation of the spine. An MRI may be needed as well to help the surgeon decide if surgery is needed. Someone who has a mild curve might just need regular checkups to make sure the curve isn't getting worse. Someone with a more severe curve may need to wear a brace or have an operation.
Bracing for Scoliosis
A brace will not permanently correct curves that are already there. A brace for scoliosis is meant to hold the spine in place so the curve doesn't get any worse. Some braces are made to be worn only at night and others are designed to be worn both day and night.
Braces are meant to be used while the spine is still growing, especially when it grows very fast during the "adolescent growth spurt." Therefore, a kid with scoliosis will spend less time in the brace as he or she gets older and gets closer to adult size. After the spine finishes growing, braces are no longer necessary or effective.
There are many different types of braces. Kids with scoliosis often wear a brace called a thoracolumbosacral orthosis, or TLSO for short. This kind of brace comes up under the arms and is more comfortable than the bigger braces.
Braces are usually named after the cities where they were invented and have names like the Boston brace, the Wilmington brace, the Providence brace, and the Charleston brace.
Surgery for Scoliosis
Braces often do the job, but some kids who have severe scoliosis eventually need an operation. The operation is done to fuse the bones in the spine together so that they can no longer continue to curve. The surgeon uses metal rods and screws to correct the curve and hold everything in line until the bones heal. The metal parts are placed deep under the spine muscles, and in most cases can't be felt and do not hurt. They are meant to be left in the back permanently.
The operation takes several hours, depending on how big the curve is and how many bones need to be fused. Kids who have this operation are typically able to get out of bed the next day and start to walk, don’t need to wear a cast or brace, and can go home in less than a week. Each patient's surgery and recovery might is different, depending on the type of surgery and the patient's age.
Over the years, the treatments have improved, so more and more kids with scoliosis live normal lives. Doctors don't know of any activities, including sports, which can make scoliosis worse. But kids who need surgery for scoliosis should talk to their doctor about how to participate safely.
Scoliosis may throw you a curve, but with the right care, a kid can grow up healthy and feeling fine.