ZocdocAnswersWhat is scoliosis?

Question

What is scoliosis?

My daughter, 14, was just diagnosed as having juvenile scoliosis. The pediatrician said that it was okay to just wait and see if it develops any further. I don't understand ? if she has this disease, why wouldn't we treat it now? And couldn't it get worse if we wait?

Answer

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It can be present from birth, develop during childhood, or develop later in life, from external forces on the bones of the spine. If it progresses far enough, it can be uncomfortable and limit a person's ability to enjoy life, along with other secondary health effects. The ultimate therapy would be surgery, in which rods are placed along the spine to keep it straight. Other therapies that can be tried before surgery include physical therapy and back braces. Watchful waiting is generally considered the first-line strategy. The most important factor in determining whether to proceed with treatment of any kind is the likelihood that the scoliosis will progress any further. This is best determined by considering the degree of deformity and how rapidly, if at all, it has already progressed. Only when the likely benefits of surgery outweigh the potential risks would it be recommended. Overall, scoliosis is a problem commonly encountered by pediatricians, and they are generally experts in determining when to escalate from watchful waiting to a more advanced therapy. If your daughter has minimal curvature and does not progress, she is unlikely to need further management. Her pediatrician will likely continue to monitor her spine at sequential visits to ensure that she does not need additional care, and would recommend therapy of another kind if she progresses to a concerning degree or at an alarming rate. However, it is worthwhile to ask this question of your daughter's pediatrician, so that you may embark on course of observation together, and so that you are comfortable with her ongoing care.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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