Types of Scoliosis in Children

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine grows to form a curvature resembling an S or a C. The curve can range from moderate to severe and is measured in degrees. In some cases there can be more than one curve. Scoliosis occurs in about 3 percent of children and adolescents and most commonly affects teenage girls.

Specialists from Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone are experienced at diagnosing the various types of scoliosis that affect children and adolescents. Scoliosis is usually idiopathic, meaning the cause of the curvature is unknown. The condition may also result from syndromes, congenital birth defects, and neuromuscular diseases.

With scoliosis, the spine grows sideways and twists, which changes the normal body alignment. This can take the appearance of a noticeable curve in the back, a prominence on one side of the ribs, or unevenness in the shoulders, hips, waist, and legs. Scoliosis can also cause back pain.

After assessing the curvature of your child’s spine and other related or underlying conditions, our doctors may recommend either nonsurgical treatments or surgery to prevent the curvature from progressing.

Idiopathic Scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis, or a spinal curvature with no known cause, is the most common type of scoliosis. This form of scoliosis is often diagnosed in children between the ages of 10 and 18—most frequently in adolescent girls—and may worsen during large growth spurts. The curve can continue to progress as a child grows into adulthood.

Early Onset Scoliosis

Scoliosis most often develops and is diagnosed in adolescence. When scoliosis occurs before the age of 10, it is referred to as early onset scoliosis. This type of scoliosis can occur as early as infancy, and affects both boys and girls. Because younger children still have significant growth and development left, severe early onset scoliosis can lead or contribute to other health problems, such as chest and breathing issues.

Congenital Scoliosis

Congenital scoliosis occurs when one or more bones in the spine do not fully form or do not separate completely during a baby’s development in the womb. This type of scoliosis is rare, occuring in 1 in 10,000 newborns. Although congenital scoliosis may be diagnosed in infancy, the curvature of the spine often develops later as the child grows. Children with congenital scoliosis may also have other health issues such heart, kidney, bladder, and lung problems, depending on whether other organs or areas of the body were affected during fetal development.

Neuromuscular Scoliosis

Neuromuscular scoliosis can occur in boys and girls with medical conditions that affect their ability to control the muscles that support the spine, such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and spina bifida. Without proper muscle support, the spine can develop an abnormal curve as its grows.

Syndromic scoliosis

Syndromic scoliosis is when a sideways curve of the spine develops as a result of a syndrome, such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Down syndrome, and Rett syndrome.