Pediatric Scoliosis

Abnormal Spinal Curvature in Girls and Boys

Pediatric scoliosis is described as an abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine. Age is a distinguishing characteristic of pediatric scoliosis that may affect an infant, child or adolescent. Infantile scoliosis can be congenital (at birth) or develop to 3 years of age. Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis may develop between ages 4 and 10. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis can develop between ages 10 and 20.

Facts about pediatric scoliosis

  • Among the types of pediatric scoliosis, infantile is least common and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is more common.
  • Pediatric scoliosis may progress during a growth spurt.
  • Scoliosis tends to run in families.
  • More girls than boys develop AIS.
  • It is estimated that 2% to 3% of all children between the ages of 10 and 16 have a degree of detectable AIS.

Congenital scoliosis may result from the spine’s failure to form normally. Other causes of scoliosis include trauma, tumors, and neuromuscular problems.


Left side: normal thoracic spine. Right side: thoracic scoliosis.

Signs of pediatric scoliosis

  • One shoulder or hip appears higher than the other.
  • Skirt or trouser length may be uneven.
  • Clothing does not fit properly.
  • In a swim suit, a sideward spinal curvature may be seen.
  • Back pain (rare)

Children require specialist care

University Spine Center provides a high level of quality care to young patients with scoliosis. Our orthopaedic spine surgeons can partner with your child’s pediatrician to manage the evaluation and treatment of pediatric scoliosis. University Spine Center utilizes advanced diagnostic methods and tools that manage pediatric scoliosis by curve observation, spinal bracing and/or surgery.

Accurate diagnosis

Early diagnosis can help manage and may prevent curve progression and/or deformity. During the consultation, we thoroughly review your child’s medical history and ask if any family member has or had scoliosis. This is important to know because scoliosis runs in families. Next, the orthopaedic spine specialist performs an in-depth physical and neurological examination. Full-length standing x-ray studies are performed. The x-rays capture the entire length of the spine from the front, back and side of the body. CT scans or MR imaging may be necessary too.

Listed below is a sampling of the type of information gathered.

Structural and non-structural curves

  • Structural scoliosis involves rotation of the spine’s vertebral bodies. The cause of structural scoliosis may be idiopathic, congenital, or associated with nerve or muscle disorders (e.g., Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy).
  • Non-structural scoliosis does not involve rotation, and is reversible.

Curve characteristics

  • The size (magnitude) of the curve is measured on x-ray studies.
  • There are different methods to measure curve angulation and evaluate curve pattern(s).
  • Side bending x-rays determine the curve’s relative stiffness or flexibility.
  • Curve classification, its type such as right thoracic or double major. There are many other curve descriptions.
  • A compensatory curve may develop above or below the primary scoliotic curve to maintain normal body alignment.

Skeletal maturity

  • A simple pelvic x-ray is used to detect the Risser sign; a skeletal marker for maturity. This test reveals how many years until your child’s skeletal system (e.g., spine) reaches maturity (stops growing). It has a bearing upon the type and length of treatment recommended.

Genetic testing for progression of adolescent idiopathic scolisis

  • ScoliScore is painless and only involves a saliva sample from your child. The results of ScoliScore combined with other clinical information your doctor has gathered (e.g., curve size), can help determine the likelihood of curve progression and a more personalized treatment plan can be offered.

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