New Hope for Scoliosis Patients
When it comes to scoliosis, the abnormal, side-to-side curvature of the spine, early detection is key to achieving the best possible outcome.
Rarely, scoliosis occurs in children under three years of age, when it is called infantile, or early onset, scoliosis. Signs of early onset scoliosis include asymmetry in the shoulders and back, or one side of the back protruding as the child bends forward. Left untreated, this condition can be debilitating and even life-threatening, as the twisting spine puts pressure on the growing heart and lungs.
No matter when it occurs, If scoliosis is suspected in your child, he or she should immediately be referred to an orthopedic surgeon. Once a diagnosis is made, a treatment plan will be developed taking your child’s unique situation into consideration.
Advanced Treatment Options
For decades, parents of infants and young children diagnosed with early onset scoliosis have had two primary treatment options to consider. The first is the brace, which offers only limited success, in large part due to compliance issues. Because a brace can be taken on and off, parents often face huge challenges in keeping their children in them. The second is surgery, which is often a less-than-ideal option as most operations result in a shortened spine and poorly developed chest and lungs.
Now, another alternative is offering patients new hope for treatment – and even a cure.
Riley at IU Health recently became the first hospital in Indiana to offer a breakthrough treatment known as scoliosis casting. In this technique, a child is placed under general anesthesia so that the body is completely relaxed. After manipulating the spine into a better position, physicians carefully apply a plaster body cast around the patient’s chest and abdomen.
This method relies on the growth potential of the young spine to correct the abnormal curvature – with the cast guiding the spine into normal alignment. The casts are changed every three to six months, gradually straightening the spine. Scoliosis casting results in a complete correction for a significant number of patients, making surgery unnecessary.
Even in cases where the results are less dramatic, the cast treatment works well in delaying surgery to a time when it is safer to undertake – around age 10 for girls and 12 for boys. The best part about the casting treatment option is that it allows kids to be kids. Children can sleep, bathe, run and play in their casts and they adapt surprisingly well to this treatment.
You can find more information and view video clips about this revolutionary treatment method at the Infant Scoliosis Outreach Program.