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Children with scoliosis, showing several braces, displaying how is scoliosis treated

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Pediatric Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a musculoskeletal disorder that results in a curved spine. While complex in nature, medical breakthroughs are leading to exciting new treatment options that allow children with this condition to enjoy rich, full lives.

Three in every 1,000 people end up developing scoliosis at some point. The condition causes the spine to take on a curved appearance, sometimes similar to an "S" or "C" shape. No two cases are alike; some children develop the condition during infancy, while others don't exhibit symptoms until they're approaching adolescence.

Our focus is early detection and fusionless treatments for the growing spine, as well as minimally invasive (nonfusion) to advanced surgical techniques in children who require spinal fusions. Every patient is unique, and the severity of their condition is what guides our orthopaedic teams in choosing the best treatment. We deliver the latest research-backed therapies in a compassionate, family-centered environment.

What causes scoliosis?

More often than not, it isn't clear what causes this condition. This is referred to as idiopathic scoliosis, and it makes up approximately 80 percent of cases. However, there are certain medical conditions that can potentially trigger it. This includes muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, although not all children with these conditions will go on to develop scoliosis. Certain birth defects that impact spinal development can also cause the condition, as can a major injury. Regardless of the cause, the condition tends to become more apparent in early adolescence, when growth spurts are in full swing.


Scoliosis is a multifaceted condition that can present in a number of ways. Many factors affect the degree to which the spine curves, but scoliosis is generally broken down into the following categories:

  • Infantile idiopathic: Affects children under the age of 3
  • Juvenile idiopathic: Affects children between the ages of 3 and 10
  • Idiopathic: Typically appears after age 10
  • Adolescent: Appears during a child's teen years
  • Congenital: Appears as the result of a birth defect

How is scoliosis treated?

Shriners Hospitals for Children looks beyond the diagnosis, offering holistic care that treats the whole child – physically, emotionally and psychologically. Our experienced team of pediatric orthopaedic surgeons and specialists includes families in the decision-making process and works collaboratively to ensure a complete understanding of the child’s care plan.

At Shriners Hospitals for Children, we specialize in:

  • Observation: Not all types of the condition require direct intervention. Observation is often the best path forward for children whose idiopathic curve measures less than 25 degrees. This watch-and-wait approach involves a thorough exam every four to six months while the child is growing to see if the curve is getting bigger. If it appears to be stable, further treatment usually isn't necessary.
  • Mehta casting: This treatment approach, designed for children with infantile idiopathic scoliosis, uses gentle, external force to align the spine. A plaster cast is first positioned from the collarbone to the bottom of the spine. Then precise pressure is put on the cast to straighten the spine. This position is then maintained when the cast hardens. Children typically wear each cast for two to three months before transitioning to a new one. This is an effective option to slow progression of a curve.
  • Bracing: This is exactly what the name implies, and it's one of the least invasive treatment options for scoliosis. At Shriners Hospitals for Children, every scoliosis brace is customized to the individual patient to best address the severity and location of their spinal curve. Bracing is a safe treatment for children with curves that are between 25 and 40 degrees. While bracing on its own won't straighten the spine, it can help prevent further curving if worn as recommended. 
  • Surgery: Not every child will need surgical intervention. When surgery is the best option, our renowned orthopaedic specialists are steeped in the latest research and have a wealth of experience. We are especially accomplished in the following surgical treatments:
    • Growing systems: These treatments use expandable devices to help growing children with scoliosis. Our specialists leverage a variety of growing rods designed to lengthen and straighten the spine as the child grows, with fewer surgeries.
      • MAGEC: Shriners Hospitals for Children was a pioneer in the use of the MAGnetic expansion control (MAGEC) spinal bracing and distraction system. Less invasive by design, MAGEC rods lengthen the spine in an outpatient setting. MAGEC rods require a surgical procedure for implantation, but the noninvasive lengthening procedure eliminates the need for repeated lengthening surgeries. The MAGEC system is composed of two magnetic, telescoping rods that can be gradually lengthened from outside the skin after initial implantation, using an external remote controller in an outpatient setting.
      • VEPTR: Shriners Hospitals for Children also uses the expandable prosthetic titanium rib (VEPTR) for children whose spinal curve is impacting their lung development due to thoracic insufficiency syndrome.
    • Spinal fusion: This type of procedure may be necessary if the spinal curve exceeds 50 degrees and the child is still growing. Fusion surgery straightens the backbone by attaching screws and rods to the curved part of the spine and distracting the curve to obtain the maximum amount of correction. Following this, the surgical team uses small bone grafts to fuse the spine, to hold the correction in place.

Low dose radiation

Scoliosis patients typically require three to four radiography sessions each year. At Shriners Hospitals for Children, patients receive lower doses of radiation due to our use of advanced, low-dose imaging systems, such as the EOS imaging system. These systems also produce high-quality 2D or 3D images that deliver more precise measurements, leading to more in-depth analysis and personalized treatment plans.

SpineScreen app

Shriners Hospitals for Children has developed a phone app that allows for a convenient preliminary spine check using your smartphone. Learn more.

Conditions, treatments and services provided may vary by location. Please consult with the Shriners Hospitals for Children location nearest you. See zip code search feature to the right.

Request an Appointment

Most major insurance providers are accepted; however, insurance coverage is not required for care. Any child under 18 with a medical condition or medical need that is within the health care system’s scope of services, is eligible for care. Shriners Hospitals for Children offers financial assistance to those in need.

Find a Location Near You

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22 Locations Across North America

Location Specialties
  • Burn Care
  • Craniofacial and Cleft Lip/Palate
  • Neuromuscular
  • Orthopaedics
  • Orthotics and Prosthetics
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Sports Injury and Fractures
  • Therapy and Rehabilitation

Notice: Treatments and services vary by location. Contact nearest hospital for specific details.

Spine surgeon at the Portland Shriners Hospital wins award for advancing scoliosis care

Spine surgeon at the Portland Shriners Hospital wins award for advancing scoliosis care

As a leader in pediatric orthopaedic care, our physicians, medical staff and researchers are always ...

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