Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis
The most common type of scoliosis seen in children is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). AIS is defined as scoliosis whose onset occurs after 10 years of age and whose cause is of an undetermined nature. Sometimes AIS begins at puberty or during an adolescent growth spurt. In more than 80% of these cases, a specific cause is not known. Research indicates that three to five percent of adolescents will be found to have some form of scoliosis; it is most commonly found in adolescent girls.
Kids with AIS generally have a normal appearance when viewed from the side. In general, there are no neurological abnormalities such as weakness or changes in feeling in the upper or lower extremities, but there may be some back pain associated with the condition. Other symptoms could include leg-length discrepancy, an abnormal gait, and uneven hips. Patients with AIS often have one shoulder that is higher than the other, a "prominent" shoulder blade and rib cage when bending forward, and visible curving of the spine to one side.
Many times, the first sign of AIS occurs when the child or parent notices that clothes no longer fit correctly (for example, pant legs may seem uneven); other times it is picked up in a routine physical exam. It is important to seek medical care for AIS because progressive scoliosis, left untreated, can result in significant deformity. Not only can the deformity cause psychological distress, debilitating pain and physical disability, it can also have serious consequences for the heart and lungs later on.