Congenital scoliosis is a lateral spinal curvature that develops when vertebrae form improperly in utero and is present at birth. While the term “congenital” might seem to imply that the condition is inherited, genetic studies have shown that the condition does not necessarily run in families. The condition is rare, affecting only one in 10,000 infants. Because there is not usually a distinct, identifiable cause, it is classified as idiopathic scoliosis.
Types of congenital scoliosis
Congenital scoliosis is classified by the type of spinal anomaly that is causing the curvature. Incidentally, this curvature might not be simply to the right or left; kyphosis (a forward curve) or lordosis (a backward curve) might also be present. There are two main types of anomaly that could cause congenital scoliosis: failure of formation (more common) and failure of segmentation.
Failure of formation means that the normal shape of one vertebra is disrupted. Disruption can take place as a:
- Hemi-vertebra – a triangular wedge with a malformed intervertebral disc that causes a tilt to one side
- Fused hemi-vertebra – two vertebrae fused together (with no growth plate or intervertebral disc between)
Failure of segmentation means that curvature is a result of:
- Block vertebra – a range of vertebrae that are fused into one solid block of bone
- Bar – two or more vertebrae connected incorrectly at the transverse processes
- Bar with hemi-vertebrae – two or more vertebrae connected at the transverse processes, along with a triangular wedge with a malformed intervertebral disc
Treatment for congenital scoliosis
This form of scoliosis in adults is diagnosed using medical imaging and is typically treatable with spine surgery. However, not all cases of congenital scoliosis require surgery immediately. Much depends on the location of the curvature.
For more information about adult congenital scoliosis, or for information about innovative treatment methods for some forms of lumbar scoliosis using minimally invasive surgical techniques, contact Laser Spine Institute.