Early-Onset Scoliosis

Early-onset scoliosis (EOS) is a lateral (side-to-side) curve of the spine that is diagnosed before age 10. All patients with EOS are not the same. While some cases are “idiopathic” (no known cause), others are associated with an underlying condition that will affect how the patient is treated. While it is not possible to review all the different types of EOS, it is helpful to divide patients into categories when discussing treatment. As always, your surgeon can help you understand the specific issues that apply to your child.

  • Idiopathic Cases: Infantile 0-3 years of age, Juvenile 4-10 years old. This type of scoliosis has no known cause
  • Syndromic Cases: These cases are associated with various syndromes from genetic problems
  • Neuromuscular Cases: TThese cases are associated with neurologic disorders such as cerebral palsy, Spina bifida, and the muscular dystrophies
  • Congenital Case: These result from spinal vertebrae that did not develop normally and cause the spine to grow in an abnormal manner
Treatment for these is quite varied, as are the causes. Depending on your child’s problem and the size of their curve will determine the treatment required.

These include treatment with bracing or casting or surgery to control the curvature of the spine while allowing the spine to grow and the child’s lung to develop.

Scoliosis in children: Overview

A normal spine—which is the line of bones going down your back—is usually straight or slightly curved. In scoliosis, the spine curves from side to side, often in an S or C shape. It may also be twisted. Scoliosis can affect adults, but it usually is found in children between the ages of 10 and 16. Scoliosis can limit your child's growth. In very bad cases, your child's lungs may not be able to hold enough air. That can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood.

Young people who have scoliosis usually do not have symptoms, but some may have back pain.

If your child has mild scoliosis, they may need only to see a doctor every several months to make sure the curve is not getting worse. A child who has moderate scoliosis may need a brace. A brace usually stops the curve from getting worse, but it is not able to correct or straighten the spine. Scoliosis that is very bad may need surgery. Scoliosis and its treatment can be hard on a child. Your child may be embarrassed by wearing a brace. Think about taking your child to a scoliosis clinic, where other children are being treated. It may help your child cope with the condition.

How is scoliosis in children and teens treated?

The goal of treatment for scoliosis is to prevent the spinal curve from getting worse and to correct or stabilize a severe spinal curve.

Most cases of scoliosis are mild and don't need treatment.

Treatment is based on the type of scoliosis, the child's age, the size of the curve, and the risk of the problem getting worse. This risk is based on age at diagnosis, the size of the curve (as measured using X-rays of the spine), and skeletal age.

  • Mild curves are usually checked by the doctor every several months until the bones stop growing. This is to make sure that the curves aren't getting worse.
  • Moderate curves may need to be braced until the bones stop growing. The brace can keep the curves from getting worse.
  • Severe curves or moderate curves that are getting worse may need surgery.

Physical therapy may be an option. But it may not be helpful for some children.

Scoliosis Programs at Renown Children’s Hospital

Early-Onset Scoliosis
  • Elongation Derotation Flexion casting (Risser/Mehta casting)
  • Bracing Program
  • VEPTR (Vertically Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib)
  • Magec Rods
  • Growing Rods
  • Shilla Growing Rods Technique
  • Surgical Correction Congenital Scoliosis
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis & Kyphosis
  • 3D Bracing
  • Schroth Physical Therapy Program
  • Thorascopic Spine Surgery (VATS)
  • Tethering Spine Growth Modulation
  • Anterior/Posterior Spinal Fusion & Instrumentation

Related Topics

OrthoInfo provides trusted resources developed and reviewed by the experts at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Idiopathic Scoliosis
Spondylolysis and Spondylolithesis
Back Pain
Congenital Torticollis