Pediatric Scoliosis FAQs

Written by Jon Lentz, D.O., Pediatric Orthopedist


What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine in which the bones that make up the spine become tilted and twisted, curving the spine in an area that is meant to be straight.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Different kinds of scoliosis have different origins. The vast majority of cases develop from an unknown cause in otherwise healthy children. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. More rare causes of scoliosis include neuromuscular conditions, congenital anomalies, some syndromes, tumors, trauma, or infections. A visit with a pediatric spine specialist can help determine the type of scoliosis a patient may have.

How Can I Tell if my Child has Scoliosis?

Parents can often be the first to notice signs of scoliosis. These may include uneven shoulders (with one higher than the other), shoulder blade asymmetry (with one sticking out more prominently), or asymmetric waist creases (with one side relatively flat and one side having a deeper crease). Scoliosis is often painless but sometimes presents with discomfort in the back. If there are any concerns an appointment should be made with the pediatrician for further evaluation.

How is Scoliosis Treated?

Treatment is based on the age of the patient and the severity of the scoliotic curve. Mild curves are usually monitored for progression until the patient is done growing while moderate curves may require treatment with a brace. When used appropriately, special custom back braces have been proven to be effective in decreasing the progression of scoliosis curves. This can often prevent a patient from ever needing surgery to correct the spine. Severe curves are treated with surgery.

What Happens if Scoliosis is Left Untreated?

Moderate curves left untreated (without bracing) have a chance of becoming severe curves that may require surgery. Curves that can be kept below 30 degrees tend not to progress into adulthood. Severe curves left untreated often progress into adulthood. Studies have shown that curves greater than 50 degrees will progress about 1 degree each year. In adulthood, these patients tend to have chronic back pain (although this does not usually limit their ability to function). Scoliosis is not life threatening, however, it may cause heart and lung issues in very severe curves over about 100-110 degrees.


Dr. Jon Lentz is a fellowship-trained pediatric orthopedic surgeon who treats musculoskeletal issues in infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Dr. Lentz specializes in the management of spinal deformities such as scoliosis and kyphosis.

To schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric specialists, please call 732-660-6200.

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