When the spine is twisted or rotated at birth, it is called congenital scoliosis.
What is Congenital Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves to the left or right. When a baby is born with a curved spine, it’s called pediatric congenital scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis is less common than other types of scoliosis, such as idiopathic adolescent scoliosis or early onset scoliosis, that begin during growth. Babies born with scoliosis have a slightly higher risk of other health issues, such as heart or kidney problems. At Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, our team of experts delivers all the care these children need to grow up healthy and strong.
What are the signs and symptoms of Congenital Scoliosis?
Congenital scoliosis may be obvious in some children when they’re born, because the condition creates a visible curve or abnormality in the spine. For others, it may take months or years for it to show up. Symptoms include:
- Appearance of leaning to one side
- One hip that sits higher than the other
- Protruding shoulder blade on one side
- Ribs sticking out more on one side
- In rare cases, weakness or numbness in the limbs due to pressure on the spinal cord
How is Pediatric Congenital Scoliosis diagnosed?
When a child’s spine curves at an angle of 10 degrees or more, it’s considered scoliosis. Signs of scoliosis may be detected in ultrasounds before the baby is born, through a physical exam right after the birth, at routine wellness appointments as the child grows up, or by the parents at home.
When kids come to us with symptoms of scoliosis, we first do a simple physical exam to see them bend and stretch their spine. If we conclude they have the condition, we’ll take an X-ray to get exact images of your child’s spine and help us decide what kind of treatment they’ll need. Your child will need X-rays throughout their treatment, and we use a machine that uses extra-low doses of radiation to expose your child to as little radiation as possible.
What are the causes of Pediatric Congenital Scoliosis?
Babies develop pediatric congenital scoliosis when they’re growing in the womb. For some babies, one or more of their vertebrae (the series of knobby bones that run along the spine) don’t form correctly. For others, some of their vertebrae are locked together. Both of these issues cause the spine to tilt or twist as it grows.
Studies have shown that factors like diabetes and alcohol use during pregnancy put babies at greater risk of these defects. Overall, only one in 10,000 babies will develop one of these defects in the womb, making congenital scoliosis very rare.
How is Pediatric Congenital Scoliosis Treated?
Pediatric congenital scoliosis typically requires surgery. To reduce the curve of your child’s spine, we may remove pieces of vertebrae that are tilting the spine off course or fuse some vertebrae together. Following surgery, your child may wear a custom brace, to guide their spine as it grows.
Babies with congenital scoliosis may also have other spine problems. They are also at higher risk for having other systems that didn’t form correctly in the womb, like their heart or urinary tract. We’ll connect your family with a team of specialists to test for these issues, and care for them, if needed.
Congenital Scoliosis Doctors and Providers
Our team of orthopedic doctors, surgeons and nurses are experts in children’s spinal issues. Depending on your child’s needs, our team can expand to include experts in heart health, kidney and urinary health, the spinal cord and nervous system, physical therapy and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will my child’s scoliosis require one or more surgeries? Surgery is common but not always necessary for children with congenital scoliosis. We decide to do surgery based on factors like how much the spine is curving and whether it affects your child’s health in other ways, such as compressing the lungs.
- Scoliosis.org, the online hub for the National Scoliosis Foundation, has information and resources for people with scoliosis and their families.