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Shriners Children’s leads the way in treating various forms of dwarfism.

There are over 450 types of dwarfism. Achondroplasia is the most common type of dwarfism and approximately one in 25,000 are diagnosed with this disorder. Achondroplasia literally means ‘no cartilage growth’ and as a result children diagnosed with this condition have short stature with abnormal bone growth.

Cartilage is the precursor of most bones, such as the arm and leg bones, and the base of the skull and the spine. Thus, these are the areas that are most affected by the disorder. Children who have achondroplasia have short stature and typically only grow to be slightly over 4 feet tall.

Diagnosing Dwarfism

Doctors may be able to diagnose dwarfism before a baby is born through an ultrasound, but only if it is performed in the latter part of pregnancy. The ultrasound will show if a baby’s arms and legs are shorter than average. Other diagnostic methods may include:

Appearance: Because dwarfism has many distinct facial and skeletal features, your child’s appearance may help your doctor in making a diagnosis.

Family history: Your doctor may take a stature history in grandparents, parents and siblings to help determine the average range of height in your family and if short stature is present. These conditions are often inherited.

Genetic testing: Genetic tests are used to diagnose many types of dwarfism-related disorders. Your doctor may suggest genetic testing if they are not clear about the type of dwarfism your child may have.

Measurements: During well-baby examinations measurements of your child’s head circumference, weight and height are taken and compared against the percentile ranking and expected future growth. If there are any trends in your child’s measurements, more can be taken over a specific period of time to determine if they have dwarfism.

Symptoms

Symptoms of achondroplasia may include:

  • A disproportionately large head with a prominent forehead and flattened bridge of the nose
  • Bowlegs or knock-knees
  • Delayed growth and motor milestones
  • Limited mobility at the elbows
  • Short fingers
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Lordosis and/or kyphosis of the thoracolumbar spine

Treatment for Achondroplasia

A thorough evaluation by one of our pediatric orthopedic physicians and/or geneticists will help determine the best course of care for your child. Our physicians are focused on providing treatments that reduce problems or complications that your child may have and preventative care to limit potential issues in adulthood. Most treatments for dwarfism do not increase stature, however, by using a collaborative approach to care, our team of specialists work to manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life.

Depending on your child’s unique needs, our providers may recommend surgery to treat the orthopedic effects of dwarfism. This may include treatments for kyphosis, bowing of the legs, or other problems.

I am forever grateful to Shriners Children’s. The work that Shriners Children’s does is so critical and important – they will help any child become the best person they can be.
Maria, Shriners Children's Portland
female patient in physical therapy gym

Child Life Services Help Reduce Stress

Child life specialists are available to reduce the stresses associated with staying in the hospital and to teach patients and families coping skills through offering opportunities to play, learn and interact with others in an emotionally and socially safe environment. They work with our doctors, nurses, social workers and others to meet the unique emotional, developmental, and cultural needs of each child and family.

Conditions We Treat

Skeletal Dysplasia

Skeletal dysplasia includes many rare conditions where bones and cartilage develop differently. Also called dwarfism. Shriners Children's offers orthopedics, neurology, otolaryngology, physical and occupational therapy, and genetic testing.

Diastrophic Dysplasia

Diastrophic dysplasia, also known as diastrophic dwarfism, is a rare genetic condition that can cause dwarfism, where a child’s legs and arms do not grow and develop to the typical adult length.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine is curved sideways. With advanced treatments and world-class expertise, Shriners Children's cares for more than 10,000 children with scoliosis each year

Kyphosis

Shriners Children's physicians have treated thousands of children with kyphosis, an abnormal forward curve of the upper spine, including those with the most challenging cases.

Blount's Disease

The pediatric orthopedic physicians of Shriners Children's can diagnose Blount’s disease, also known as bowed legs, and recommend the best options for treatment – like bracing or surgery.

Next Steps

Request an Appointment

Families and caregivers seeking treatment should start by contacting us for an appointment.

Log in to the Patient Portal

Parents and guardians of existing patients can email, request records, schedule appointments and more.

Refer a Patient

Physicians and healthcare providers can request appointments, start transfers or contact us with questions.