About 5 to 7 percent of children, mostly girls, develop the side-to-side curves in the spine that define scoliosis.
“We closely track children with early onset of this disease, looking for the degree of curvature from a normal spine,” Jaglan said. “Fortunately, for most patients the condition remains stable and we do not need to take any other action as long as the curvature stays at less than 25 degrees from normal.”
Bracing for scoliosis
For reasons not fully understood, some children develop curvatures of more than 25 degrees by their teen years. Most need to wear a body brace but the newest braces are much less bulky.
“Most of the kids can get pretty active in them,” he said. “If they wear slightly loose clothes, most people don’t even notice them. That’s especially important when kids wear them to school and activities.”
Braces help keep the curvature from getting worse but cannot make it go away. Children can take them off for part of the day, if they wish, and can take a bath or shower before putting them back on before bed. Braces usually need to be worn all night during sleep to help control curvature growth.
When the curvature worsens, the child will usually need surgery. Left untreated, scoliosis can lead to chronic and debilitating deformity, severe back pain and even difficulty breathing.
“The surgery is safer now,” Jaglan said. “We monitor signals between the brain and spinal cord to avoid injury. We can get children back on their feet in a few days, back to school in two to three weeks and back to using a treadmill or exercise bike in two to three months.
“This is much faster than we could accomplish in recent decades,” Jaglan said.