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The pediatric orthopedic specialists with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville (COOL), affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, are the foremost providers of pediatric orthopedic care in Louisville, Kentucky, and Southern Indiana. Our fellowship-trained pediatric orthopedic specialists provide specialized care for children and teens with kyphosis.

What Is Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a forward curvature of the spine in the upper back that gives a child’s back an abnormally rounded or “humpback” appearance. The condition can be seen more prominently from the side. Kyphosis is an inflexible spinal condition, not to be confused with poor posture.

Kyphosis Causes

Kyphosis can be present at birth (congenital) or caused by trauma, infection or conditions such as:

  • Defects that cause abnormal vertebral development
  • Metabolic conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease
  • Neuromuscular conditions such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy
  • Scheuermann disease, a developmental disorder in which spinal bones become wedged together and cause the spine to bow forward
  • Slipping of one vertebra forward on another, known as spondylolisthesis; this usually is found in the lower lumbar spine
  • Tumor conditions such as neurofibromatosis
  • Post-laminectomy syndrome, a rare condition that can develop in patients who previously had surgery for cervical ossification

Kyphosis Symptoms

Common symptoms or signs of kyphosis can include:

  • Back pain
  • Curve or hump in the upper back (thoracic spine)
  • Differences in the shoulder blades (height or position)
  • Difference in shoulder height and forward position
  • Height of the upper back appears higher than normal when a child bends forward
  • The head bends forward compared to the rest of the child’s body
  • Tight hamstring muscles

Kyphosis Treatment

Treatment plans for kyphosis will be unique based on a child’s diagnosis and current condition, including:

  • The degree of curvature
  • Age and growth stage of the child
  • Status of the curve: Is it getting progressively better or worse?

COOL offers surgical and nonsurgical treatments for kyphosis. Nonsurgical treatments may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Back brace
  • Physical therapy

Surgery may be considered if back bracing cannot slow the progression of the curve and the kyphosis is rigid or progressive greater than 80 degrees. Common kyphosis surgeries include:

  • Implantation of a growing rod
  • Vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib (VEPTR) implantation
  • Spinal fusion

Some children with kyphosis may have other conditions as well. The pediatric orthopedic specialists with COOL work with specialists from across the Norton Children’s network to provide care through a multidisciplinary approach that treats the whole child.

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