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What is adolescent scoliosis and what treatments are available?

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Scoliosis is a curvature or bend of the spine; it is quite a rare condition affecting about one in 2,000 children. It can occur at any time, from birth until a child stops growing.

The most common type of scoliosis develops in teenage years and may cause a visible deformity of the back. It often becomes worse with growth through childhood and into adolescence, but at the end of growth this deterioration usually stops.

Symptoms of scoliosis can include back pain and intense nerve pain as nerves are compressed by the bend in your spine.

To help diagnose scoliosis in children the GP may order an X-ray or MRI scan and in some cases, a CT scan may be needed. It is likely that a referral to a consultant with a special interest in the spine will then follow.

What is adolescent scoliosis and what treatments are available?
What is adolescent scoliosis and what treatments are available?

Treatment of children with scoliosis can be observation only as the condition often corrects itself as the child grows and regular X-rays will confirm any changes in the spine. In more severe cases a body cast or a brace may be used for a period to guide the spine back into its correct position. In cases of a severe or an increasing curve of the spine, or when pain levels are not responding to more conservative treatments, the consultant may recommend surgery.

Surgery is considered in cases where there is a risk of the curve progressing beyond 40 degrees. The aim of the operation is to stop things from getting worse, while also hopefully improving appearance too. The surgery which is required to correct scoliosis deformity of the spine is major, and it is important to be aware of the risks involved. The surgeon will talk to the patient and family about the risks as well as the benefits of this type of operation.

The operation normally involves attaching the curved part of the spine to one or two metal rods and fusing the vertebrae in that part of the spine, so that they eventually join together. The operation itself normally takes four to five hours. After surgery the patient will normally stay in hospital for up to our days with ongoing pain relief and the nursing team and physiotherapists will help with getting the patient moving again.

As the body adjusts to its new posture the patient will become more comfortable and will work with their physiotherapist to learn to do normal everyday activities from their ‘new position’.

To find out more about the scoliosis service at Nuffield Health Cambridge Hospital, call 01223 370922 or email cambridge.enquiries@nuffieldhealth.com.

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