There is a number of pediatric spine conditions that children can be born with or develop as they get older. As a child, certain conditions can cause issues with walking or being able to live a normal life. The child may not be able to engage in sports or gym class. Other conditions are neurological in nature, such as Chiari malformation, where part of the brain is displaced toward the spine. Babies can be born with spina bifida, and scoliosis can appear between the ages of 10 and 18, although the child is born with it.
Common Pediatric Spine Disorders
Aside from Chiari malformation, other pediatric spine disorders include:
- Hydrocephalus – Abnormal fluid accumulation in the brain. Treatment usually involves fluid diversion to other areas of the body.
- Dermal sinus – A deep opening in the skin over the spine, usually in the lumbar spine and possibly attached to the spinal cord. This can indicate a child has had multiple episodes of meningitis.
- Tethered cord – A spinal cord deformity involving surrounding tissue. The spinal cord can be stretched and under tension, leading to permanent injury.
- Split cord malformation – The spinal cord is split in two lengthwise. Cartilage or bone may be between the two parts of the cord. Surgery is usually required while the child grows because the spinal cord can get caught on the cartilage or bone, causing the cord to become tethered.
- Syringomyelia hydromyelia – Fluid accumulates in the spinal cord, which leads to pressure on the cord. Treatment involves fluid diversion to other parts of the body.
Neurological or anatomical challenges can present themselves. Physical challenges can occur as well, which is why it is important to ensure the highest possible quality of life for a child who is stricken with a pediatric spine condition.
Congenital Spine Deformities
There is a number of congenital spine deformities. While scoliosis is one of them, it isn’t always found until a child is older and growing. Kyphosis is a bowed or rounded back. Lordosis is a “sway” back. The causes for these conditions aren’t well known. Other issues can include fused together or missing vertebrae.
The symptoms can include abnormal curvature, difficulty walking, difficulty breathing, tilted pelvis, uneven shoulders, uneven hips or legs, and/or twisting of the back. Some congenital spine deformities are sometimes found before birth via anatomical ultrasounds. After the child is born, x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can be used. These tests are used to assess the vertebrae and the known spinal problems and to find related issues with surrounding organs and the spinal cord. Bone health may also be measured. Measuring bone health is important for helping determine what type of intervention is needed.
As far as treatment, back braces may be required. Surgery is also a solution for improving spine alignment. Sometimes, multiple surgeries are needed in order to correct a problem. The surgeon will work out a plan to rectify the problem as much as possible and bring about relief so that the child can have the best quality of life possible.