Adolescence marks a time when the body goes through many changes, including changes to the spine.
Scoliosis is a spinal deformity characterized by excessive side-to-side bending and rotation of the spinal column. When you look at a healthy spine from behind, it appears to be straight from side to side. A spine with scoliosis looks more like the letter “S.” The American Association of Neurological Surgeons reports that most cases of scoliosis occur in adolescence, between ages 10 and 15.
The most common form of scoliosis is called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). “Adolescent,” of course, refers to the age group, and “idiopathic” means that the cause of the scoliosis is not understood. In other words, the scoliosis is not caused by any clear disease or injury. The treatment of scoliosis varies depending on the severity of the curve and can include physical therapy, bracing and surgery.
Mild scoliosis, with a small spinal curve, doesn’t usually impact a child’s quality of life or require intervention. Physicians often recommend a “watch and wait” approach, with few cases advancing to need any kind of treatment.
The greater the curvature of the spine, especially in younger children, the more likely it is to progress and require treatment.
Large curves (with at least one part of the spine bent sideways at more than 50 degrees) are watched much more closely and usually require surgery. The spinal deformity can become so bad that it causes the child great discomfort and loss of functional movement. Eventually the spine can curve so much that it presses on the lungs or other organs and inhibits their function.
When surgery is required, patients are often referred to a pediatric neurosurgeon such as Dr. Richard C.E. Anderson of The Spine Hospital at The Neurological Institute of New York. He is one of the leading pediatric neurosurgeons in the Tri-State Area, and he specializes in spinal disorders like scoliosis.
Together with Dr. Michael Vitale, Dr. Anderson recently shared his expertise with other clinicians in a webinar sponsored by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The audience included specialists in neurological, orthopedic and pediatric surgery, pediatricians, physical and occupational therapists, and fellows and residents.
The webinar focused on cases of severe scoliosis including the best ways to perform osteotomies, or cuts in the bone, and to de-rotate and straighten the spine to achieve the best possible outcomes. Dr. Anderson and Dr. Vitale reviewed specific surgical techniques, state-of-the-art equipment and the latest research in the area.
The webinar was well received, with a lively discussion in the Q & A that followed.
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