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Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, offers spondylolisthesis treatment for children and teens, including spondylolisthesis surgery.

What Is Spondylolisthesis?

Children can experience a stress fracture in the vertebra of the lower back called spondylolysis. Also called lumbar spondylolisthesis, it is a condition that happens when a vertebrae slips from its normal position in a place where a spondylolysis stress fracture was and became weak.
Spondylolisthesis usually causes the vertebrae to shift forward. If the slip is large enough, it may cause the nerves to become pinched. Spondylolisthesis is diagnosed on a scale from 1 to 5, with type 1 being a mild slip and type 5 a significant slip.
Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis can happen in active children and teens who play sports that use repetitive hyperextension motion of the spine (overstretching), including gymnastics, football, rowing and diving. Some children also have a genetic predisposition to developing spondylolysis.

Spondylolisthesis Symptoms

A child with spondylolisthesis may show symptoms including:

  • Back soreness
  • Muscle spasms in lower back and back of legs
  • Pain in lower back and back of legs
  • A change in how the child walks in response to the pain
  • Numbness, tingling and problems going to the bathroom

Spondylolisthesis Treatment in Children and Teens

Some degree of spondylolisthesis is common in children and is most often treated with temporary activity restriction (rest) or bracing for a few weeks or months. Other treatments may include:

  • Medications to help with back pain and swelling
  • Physical therapy may help stretch and strengthen the muscles around the spine
  • Surgery may be needed if spondylolisthesis is severe and cannot be treated with nonsurgical therapies

If surgery is required, the pediatric orthopedic surgeons with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville have the experience to know whether a limited procedure to repair the bony defect (pars repair) will be sufficient, or whether a more extensive correction of alignment is necessary.

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