Common types of Kyphosis in Children and Adolescents
In most cases, kyphosis does not cause serious problems requiring surgical treatment. Many patients improve their posture and strengthen their spine through the use of a back brace and/or by doing specific therapeutic exercises. However, severe cases of kyphosis cause pain and significant spinal deformity, even leading to breathing problems if left untreated. Patients with this problem may require surgery to reduce their abnormally curved spinal cord and relieve their symptoms.
Types of Kyphosis:
- Developmental (Postural and Structural/Scheuermann’s) kyphosis – The developmental of this disorder is usually classified as either postural or structural in origin. Both are most commonly seen in children and adolescents, but they may occur at any age.
- Congenital kyphosis – The disorder a curvature of the spine is present at birth and occurs when the spinal column fails to develop normally before the child is born.
- Post-Traumatic kyphosis – Usually resulting from an accident or injury, post-traumatic kyphosis is commonly seen in the mid-to-lower back.
Postural kyphosis, the most common type of this disorder, usually becomes evident in childhood. It occurs more frequently in girls than in boys, rarely causes pain, and doesn’t normally lead to problems in adulthood. As the child grows, the curve does not get worse.
Structural Scheuermann’s Kyphosis
Structural kyphosis (also called Scheuermann’s kyphosis) occurs when the structure of the spine develops abnormally. Occurring most often with the front sections of the vertebrae growing slower than the back. Instead of normal, rectangular vertebrae with ideal alignment, structural kyphosis results in more triangular, wedge-shaped vertebrae that cause misalignment.
Structural kyphosis usually develops during periods of rapid bone growth. Normally this occurs between the ages of 12 and 15 in males or a few years earlier in females. The curve caused by this abnormality usually appears sharp and angular, as well as stiff and rigid. Unlike the postural type, structural kyphosis cannot become corrected simply by standing up straight.
While congenital kyphosis does not usually occur, it may involve the bones developing in an unusual shape (called the failure of formation). Or it can occur when several vertebrae become fused together (called the failure of segmentation).
Unfortunately, casting and/or bracing does not effectively treat patients with congenital kyphosis. This type of abnormality usually requires surgical treatment at a very young age to stop the progression of the curve.
Post-traumatic kyphosis usually occurs from a fall, a motor vehicle accident, or a horseback riding accident. The impact of these kinds of injuries can lead to fractures and/or dislocation of the vertebrae. And these injuries can lead to a kyphotic curve of the spine — especially if treatment is not promptly addressed.
Symptoms of Kyphosis
Diagnosing Kyphosis in Children
During an exam, Dr. Kishan, Dr. Hostin, or Dr. Wiesman will ask your child to bend forward with both feet together, knees straight, and arms hanging free. This test, known as Adam’s forward bend test, allows the doctor to better observe the curve of the spine and spot any spinal deformity.
The doctor may also ask your child to lay down to see if this straightens the curve. If it does, this indicates that the curve remains flexible and may exist as a result of postural kyphosis. The doctors may also order X-rays to determine if changes exist in the vertebrae or any other bony abnormalities.
In patients with postural kyphosis who do not manifest any abnormalities in the vertebrae, the forward curve shows flexibility and corrected simply by encouraging proper posture.
Kyphosis is more common in kids and adolescents
“Postural Kyphosis is a benign condition, but one that needs attention before the curve progresses. Poor posture can lead to this and observed if a child sits slumped forward. A lot of children today who play video games or electronics often sit this way. Thankfully, we can correct this with exercises and by correcting the posture of the child.” ~ Shyam Kishan, MD
Observation and physical therapy are typically recommended for:
- Postural kyphosis (the back can straighten with proper posture)
- Curves less than 60° in patients who are growing
- Curves 60° – 80° in patients who completed growing
X-Rays and Exercise
Full-spine X-rays are usually taken every 6 months as the child grows using our advanced imaging system that scans the entire spine in just seconds while delivering an extremely low dose of radiation.
With a moderately severe curve (60° – 80°) and a patient who continues to grow, brace treatment in conjunction with a tailored exercise program can provide positive results. Full-time use of a brace (20 hours/day) is usually required in the beginning until maximum correction has been achieved.
In the final year of treatment prior to skeletal maturity, your child’s physician may propose part-time bracing (12-14 hours/day). Your child must continue to wear the brace for a minimum of 18 months in order to significantly and permanently correct their kyphosis.
Operative Treatment for Kyphosis
At Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists, we consider surgery only when absolutely necessary. Our pediatric orthopedic surgeons use the most advanced treatment options to ensure that patients can return to normal daily activities as soon as possible.
If kyphosis has become severe (greater than 80°) and causes frequent back pain, surgical treatment may get recommended. Surgery can significantly correct the deformity without the need for postoperative bracing. To keep the spine stable and ensure that it heals properly, the surgeon will implant screws, hooks, and or sublaminar cables.
Thanks to Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists’ enhanced recovery after spine, pelvic and hip procedures, hospital stays for spinal fusions performed here become shorter than most.
While most surgeries occur from the back, your child’s pediatric orthopedic surgeon may recommend additional surgery on the front of the spine. Patients return to normal daily activities within 4 to 6 months following surgery.
Spine osteotomy occurs when a section of the spinal bone is cut and removed to allow for correction of the spinal alignment. The Smith-Peterson Osteotomy, one of the most common procedures, involves removing sections of bone from the back of the spine, as well as the posterior ligament and facet joints. This causes the spine to lean more toward the back, correcting the kyphotic curve.
Should your child require surgery to correct kyphosis, the expert surgeons and caregivers at Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists can provide the care and attention they deserve. In addition, Dr. Richard Hostin, Dr. Kathryn Wiesman, and Dr. Shyam Kishan have been treating children and adolescents for more than 10 years.
When kyphosis is diagnosed early, the majority of children can get treated successfully without surgery and go on to lead active healthy lives. If the problem is left untreated, however, the progression of the curve could potentially lead to problems in adulthood.
At Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists, our doctors have successfully performed 5,900 surgeries, so you can rest assured your child is in good hands. In the case that your child requires surgery, our compassionate medical team will sit down and discuss with you all the options available so your family can make an informed decision.