Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some spine deformities continue to get more severe as children grow. An especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.
Children who have mild scoliosis are monitored closely, usually with X-rays, to see if the curve is worsening. In many cases, no treatment is necessary. However, some children will need to wear a brace to stop the curve from worsening. Others may need surgery. The most common type of scoliosis surgery is called spinal fusion, where surgeons connect two or more of the bones in the spine — the vertebrae — together so that they can’t move. While fusion straightens the spine, it has some lifelong consequences. For some patients with severe scoliosis, a surgical alternative to fusing the spine — vertebral body tether implant — is now available.
On this next Mayo Clinic Radio program segment, Dr. Todd Milbrandt, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, explains treatment options for scoliosis.