Congenital Scoliosis can be defined as a sideways curvature of the spine due to a deformity present at birth. This means that the child’s spinal cord did not develop properly doing the initial four to five months of fetal growth. The condition is characterized by a twisted or rotated spine, which usually resembles the letter ‘C’ or ‘S’. Though the deformity is innate, the symptoms may not become apparent until the child attains adolescence.
- One or more of the spinal vertebrae may form partially or completely fail to develop
- Bones may not get separated as they should be
- Absence of one or more bones in the spine
- Formation of compensatory curves in the spine to balance the Scoliotic curves
- Tilted or uneven shoulders
- The one-shoulder blade may protrude more than the other
- The head or upper body may tilt to either side
- One hip may be higher than another
- Uneven waistline
- Tilted pelvis
- The prominence of ribs on one side
To diagnose Congenital Scoliosis, the spine surgeon may evaluate the child’s medical and family history. He may conduct a physical examination to look for the apparent symptoms. He may also check the reflexes in the abdomen and legs to rule out any nerve problem. Imaging tests such as X-ray, CT scan, MRI and ultrasound may be performed to detect the exact abnormality that has led to the development of Scoliosis.
If the scoliotic curve is much not significant, the spine specialist may monitor its progression by conducting X-rays every few months during the growing years. Braces or cast may be used to treat a curve between 25 and 40 degrees. It may help to reduce the pressure on the spine and keep it in a more aligned position.
Surgical intervention may be required for children who:
- Have significantly abnormal curves
- Have curves that are worsening with growth
- Have developed an abnormality of the spine
- Are experiencing neurological problems, weakness, numbness or a loss of coordination due to the deformity
The spine surgeon may recommend spinal fusion to join the underdeveloped vertebrae so that they heal into a single bone. If the child is young, a ‘growing’ rod may be attached to the spine above and below the curve. After every few months, the surgeon may lengthen the rod to allow continued growth of the spine. Once the child has completely grown, a spinal fusion may be performed.