Scoliosis is often seen and diagnosed in the fall, during back-to-school physicals. Here’s some background from ORA Orthopedics physician, Dr. Michael Pyevich, the only pediatric orthopedist in the QC region.
Rochelle Canfield and Morgan Martin share typical scoliosis stories. The 2 Quad-City teens had felt perfectly normal before routine physicals discovered their dangerously curved spines. Unlike the majority of scoliosis patients, though, both Rochelle and Morgan needed surgery.
“Simply put, scoliosis is a curve of the spine,” ORA pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Pyevich says.
“The most common type of scoliosis is called idiopathic, meaning we don’t know what causes it.”
The degree of curvature determines the degree of severity. Of the 2% of children who will develop scoliosis, the vast majority will have only a small curve. Whether large or small, though, parents may not be aware of the growing deformity.
“The spine already curves naturally,” Dr. Pyevich says. “The neck curves in, the upper back out, the lower back in, the butt out.”
Dr. Pyevich says the lateral and unnatural curve of scoliosis is not very visible.
“Maybe you’ll notice something in the summer, when your child is in a swimming suit,” he says.
“Otherwise it can be very well hidden if they’re wearing a sweatshirt or loose fitting clothing.”
How is scoliosis diagnosed?
Since scoliosis is rarely painful, your child won’t likely notice anything.
In many cases, curves do not appear until around puberty, when they can get worse quickly during growth spurts. General practice doctors often look for it during annual school exams.
“You might see a little bit of asymmetry of the ribs, or in the waistline,” Dr. Pyevich notes. “The shoulders might not be at the same level.”
Rochelle Canfield’s scoliosis was discovered during a sports physical in 8th grade.
“I went to get a physical for track, and my doctor discovered I had a curved spine. He asked me to bend at the waist, touch my toes and saw my shoulder blade sticking out. My mom and I had no idea!”
How is scoliosis treated?
Treatment ranges from wait-and-see, for small curves that are not done growing, to braces and surgery for more advanced cases.
“Braces are only for kids in their active growing years,” he says. “A brace won’t correct the curve, but can keep it from getting worse.”
Surgery – if needed – follows, once the child has finished growing. Rochelle and Morgan each wore braces before Dr. Pyevich performed surgery to straighten their spines.
“The surgery was amazing and my back is good now,” Rochelle says.
“Now I’m good, and I can pretty much do whatever I want,” Morgan adds.
As for adults?
“An adult’s curve can continue to worsen,” Dr. Pyevich says.
“If it’s greater than 45 degrees, you do want to see those folks every 5 to 10 years to make sure the curve isn’t creeping up. If it approaches 90 degrees, it can start having problems for your lungs and heart.”
ORA Orthopedics physician, Dr. Michael Pyevich, is the only pediatric orthopedist in the bi-state region. Each year, he sees more than 500 Quad-City area patients in his scoliosis clinics. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment at ORA’s Pediatric Orthopedic Center, call ORA Orthopedics at (563) 322-0971.