Confirming a Diagnosis of Scoliosis in Children and Adolescents

X-rays are the primary diagnostic tool for scoliosis. By looking at your child’s back, you might be able to see a curve, but by taking X-rays, UH pediatric spine specialists can look at the spinal column clearly and measure the curve in degrees. X-rays of your child’s spine are taken from the back and sometimes from the side. Occasionally, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be recommended.

In addition to X-rays, the doctor will take a full medical history, conduct a thorough physical examination and perform neurological tests to check for:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Abnormal reflexes

Although there is much research being done to look for a hereditary link, a genetic test for idiopathic scoliosis does not currently exist.

It is important to know that not all children diagnosed with scoliosis will need treatment. For mild cases, UH Rainbow pediatric spine specialists can often prevent the condition from worsening or causing other complications such as a rotating spine, uneven hips and breathing challenges. In these situations, when mild scoliosis is present but no active treatment is recommended, your child should be examined by a UH spine specialist every four to six months, especially during the years of rapid growth, to make sure the curve is not getting worse.

For cases of moderate to severe or progressive scoliosis, it is important to treat for two main reasons:

Health Problems

While health problems may not show up until children are older, changes in their heart and lung function can occur if their curve is allowed to become severe. In addition, although children may not have pain now, an abnormal posture could lead to limited activity, discomfort and arthritis as they get older.

Appearance

Scoliosis signs and symptoms affect the shape of your child’s body. If the curve increases too much, the physical changes may be apparent even when he or she is clothed, affecting self-esteem and body image.

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