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Our care team provides premium care to children with congenital scoliosis.

The least common type of scoliosis, congenital scoliosis is a side-to-side curve in the spine present at birth. Congenital scoliosis can be identified in the womb, but it may not be detected for several months after birth. Shriners Children's knows providing a happy, healthy life for your child is important to you. It's important to us too.

A diagnosis of congenital scoliosis can be stressful for the entire family. Those stressors can include fears about your child's future and insecurity about making the right decisions. Be reassured that if your child is diagnosed with scoliosis, you'll have a Shriners Children's care team to guide you. Your child’s surgeons, physical and occupational therapists, and other care providers understand the concerns of children and parents navigating this journey.

Detecting congenital scoliosis early, when your baby's bones are still forming, makes treatment much more successful.

We’ve seen babies with congenital scoliosis successfully progress through childhood, as they become active preschoolers, elementary school gymnasts, and teens confidently socializing with friends and succeeding in sports. Here you can learn more about congenital scoliosis and the treatment options that are available.

Specific treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.

Scoliosis overview with Dr. Steven Hwang

Dr. Hwang from Shriners Children’s Philadelphia gives us a quick overview of scoliosis. Shriners Children’s treats scoliosis at 20 locations across the country including our Montreal, Canada and Mexico City, Mexico locations.
View Transcript

Dr. Steven Hwang:

Hi, my name's Steven Hwang. I'm one of the spine surgeons here at Shriners in Philadelphia. We treat primarily scoliosis in children here. And so scoliosis is essentially a three-dimensional rotation of the spine. And so we often see with a curvature in children, may notice some shoulder symmetry or sometimes a rib prominence in the back. Sometimes their waist may be to the side a little bit. You yourself, or your children may have noticed screening in schools or by the pediatricians. Often they have children lean forward and look at their backs to look for any of these asymmetries to help identify those children who have scoliosis. And so a lot of those children come to us here and we help manage them in different ways.

There's a lot of different options to help treat these children. I think you've heard from some of the children today. Some involve traction and surgeries or different kinds of bracing methods. And we do treat kind of the gamut of options here at Shriners in Philadelphia. And so thank you very much for helping us treat these children and help these other children. We do really appreciate all the help we have and the resources, and it helps us help others as well.

 

Symptoms of Congenital Scoliosis

Congenital scoliosis is present at birth, so may be discovered during an ultrasound, or within your child's first year by your pediatrician. However, it is possible that it may not become obvious until later. As your child continues to grow, you can look for symptoms to share with their pediatrician and orthopedic specialist. Look for symptoms like:

  • Leaning to one side
  • One shoulder appearing higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade sticking out farther than the other
  • One hip appearing higher than the other
  • Head appearing not properly centered over the body
  • When bending from the waist, the ribs on one side are higher
  • Waistline appearing flat on one side
  • Clothes not fitting correctly
  • Hems that aren’t hanging evenly

Talk to us about anything you’ve noticed or have questions about. Once your child is a Shriners Children's patient, we’ll keep a close eye on them with X-rays and other imaging as needed.

Learn About Congenital Scoliosis Treatments

When you and your child meet our scoliosis treatment team, you’ll discover we're always moving forward. Our physicians stay active in the medical community, continue their training and eagerly incorporate the latest evidence-based treatments for scoliosis into their practices. Often it is our own physicians developing the methods for these treatments, while working in partnership with the FDA and industry partners.

Every scoliosis treatment plan is as unique as your child. If your child's congenital scoliosis continues into adolescence, more advanced treatment options may be explored. Read about all the scoliosis treatment options here. However, if treatment starts early, it will most likely be one or more of the below.

Observation

Sometimes the best treatment is time. Your child’s doctor will talk to you about the measurement of the curve in their spine and what that measurement means for his or her treatment. If the curve measures less than 20 degrees, our spine team will examine your child and take low-dose X-rays every four to six months during their growing years to see how the curve is changing (also called curve progression). In most cases, if the curve is not progressing, your child will not need treatment.

Mehta Casting

Mehta casting is an option for children typically between 6 months and 5 years, and it can be used instead of bracing. Casting is often used to delay or prevent the need for surgery.

A Mehta cast is a plaster cast applied from a child’s collarbone to the bottom of their spine. Once the cast hardens, it holds the spine in position by applying gentle pressure. Children need a new cast every two to three months, with each one straightening the spine a bit more. Some children may transition to a brace as they get older.

Bracing

Our orthopedic physicians may recommend bracing if the curve is moderate (between 25 and 40 degrees) or if it is progressing. The brace will need to be worn until your child stops growing, or until their doctors recommend a different type of treatment. It's important to note that bracing is not always effective and sometimes the curve increases anyway. In this instance, surgery may be necessary.

Our doctors discussed options and connected us with others in similar circumstances. We had the opportunity to ask questions, express concerns, and they provided me with contact information if I had questions later. We were well cared for.
Press Ganey survey comment, Salt Lake City
female scoliosis patient sitting on ground with progressive casts lined up

Mehta casting works with developing bones to correct spinal curve

Starting as young as 6 months old, typical success rates for Mehta casting is very high and is often used to delay or prevent the need for surgery.

Innovative Treatments

View All Related Treatments

Scoliosis Specific Exercises

Scoliosis specific exercises offered by physical therapists at Shriners Children’s, aim to correct and slow the progression of a spinal curve, reduce pain and improve posture, breathing and quality of life.

Mehta Casting

Shriners Children's orthopedic surgeons specialize in the application of Mehta casts – an option to treat the curvature of the spine in children diagnosed with infantile scoliosis.

Bracing

Shriners Children's multidisciplinary team includes orthotists who create braces to meet the individual need of each child – whether to treat a complex condition or common injury.

Halo Traction

Shriners Children's skilled physicians use halo traction as a first step in correcting severe scoliosis, kyphosis and other spine deformities. The treatment carefully pulls a child's head and spine upward, applying a slow stretch.

Growing Rods

Shriners Children's provides growing rods for children who have not reached skeletal maturity. They are placed along the spine to correct a spinal curve and allow continued growth of the spine.

MAGEC System

Shriners Children’s pioneered the use of the MAGEC System for treating early onset scoliosis. This magnetic rod-lengthening treatment gently guides the growth of the spine, without repeated surgeries.

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery stabilizes and corrects the curvature of the spine; and for scoliosis and kyphosis, prevents further curvature of the spine. Stabilizing the spine can improve movement, reduce pain and restore lung function.

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.