Ask the Expert: Dr. Roger Widmann, Orthopedic Surgeon, Answers Your Questions About Scoliosis
Q1: My son was recently told that he will need surgery for his scoliosis – as a young athlete, he is concerned he won’t be able to return for the soccer and baseball fields. Is returning to sports definitely ruled out?
Historically, six months after posterior spinal fusion surgery patients were cleared to go back to sports. Due to a more stable surgical construct, patients can go back to sports earlier. We are able now to allow our patients to return to sports at 3-4 months, depending on review of post operative x-rays and clinical exam. We are currently researching this topic to see how the level of fusion affects return to sports.
Q2: My child is being given a back brace to treat her scoliosis. Any tips to get her to wear it and take it seriously?
There are differing opinions as to the effectiveness of brace wear for treatment of scoliosis. However, studies have shown a correlation between amount of time a brace is worn and successful brace treatment. Success in brace wear depends on complete commitment by the orthopedic surgeon, the orthotist, the family and the child. Sometimes knowing that the brace is the only thing that may help control a curve so that it does not get to the magnitude of needing surgery is enough motivation to wear the brace. There are two basic brace types: a “Boston Brace“ which is worn 16-20 hours a day, or a night time bending brace worn only during sleep.
Q3: I suffered idiopathic scoliosis as a young girl and now have a daughter of my own. Is this type of scoliosis genetic? Is any type of scoliosis hereditary?
Although the cause of idiopathic scoliosis is multifactorial, there does seem to be a significant genetic component. Adult individuals with idiopathic scoliosis need to have their children checked for scoliosis during their childhood. Of the various types of scoliosis, only idiopathic scoliosis has a hereditary component.
Q4: Do more females suffer from scoliosis than males?
Idiopathic scoliosis is seen more commonly in females than males in a ratio of 8:1.
Q5: My child was diagnosed with scoliosis and is currently wearing a back brace. How will her growth and development be affected?
There is no evidence to suggest that a brace for scoliosis (i.e., Thoracolumbosacral orthosis) will interfere at all with overall normal growth and development. There is some evidence to suggest that the growth of the curve will be slowed or arrested. In terms of physical growth, children with scoliosis lose a small amount of height due to the curvature of their spine. As the brace is worn to halt or slow the progression of the curvature, it helps to lessen the amount of growth that would be lost due to increase in the curvature. The psychological consequences of having scoliosis and wearing a brace are very individual, but overall, there is little evidence to suggest that adolescents have any long-term psychosocial problems due to the condition or treatment.
Dr. Roger Widmann has been a member of the Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Service at Hospital for Special Surgery since 1995 and the Chief of the Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Service since 2004. He s also a member of the Scoliosis Service at Hospital for Special Surgery.