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Treating scoliosis in children

Te whakarauora i te matenga kĊpikotanga iwituararo

scoliosis boyScoliosis doesn't usually get better without treatment, but if it's mild, it usually won't need treatment.

Surgery helps to straighten the spine of a tamaiti (child), but it also makes it stiff. This is why doctors don't usually operate on tamariki (children) with mild scoliosis.

When deciding if your tamaiti needs treatment, your doctor will consider where the curve in their spine is, how bad it is, the age of the tamaiti, and how many years of growing they have left. Once they are fully grown it's unlikely the curve will get much worse.

If your tamaiti has mild scoliosis, your doctor is likely to keep monitoring them and may refer them for physiotherapy. By strengthening their back muscles and improving their posture, physiotherapy can sometimes help if poor posture is adding to their discomfort. If your doctor thinks physiotherapy may help your tamaiti, it's best to start as soon as possible.

Surgery for scoliosis in children

If the scoliosis your tamaiti has is more severe, your GP may refer them to an orthopaedic surgeon. For curves that are very noticeable, or if there is a risk the curve will start affecting the way your child's lungs work, the surgeon is likely to recommend an operation called a spinal fusion.

Spinal fusion straightens the curve out and fuses the affected spinal bones (vertebrae) together using metal rods that are held in place with screws and bone grafts. As the bone grafts heal, the affected vertebrae fuse into a single, solid bone and stop growing.

Sometimes a tamaiti who still has a lot of growing to do will have rods inserted that don't cause fusion. The rods may need to be changed as the tamaiti grows.

When to have your child checked again

You should go back to your GP if:

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2022.

Sources

Page reference: 382061

Review key: HISCO-381984