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What is kyphosis?

A normal spine, when viewed from behind appears straight. However, a spine affected by kyphosis shows evidence of a forward curvature of the back bones (vertebrae) in the upper back area, giving the child a "humpback" appearance.

Illustration of a child with kyphosis
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Kyphosis is defined as a curvature of the spine measuring 20 to 40 degrees or greater on an x-ray (a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film). The normal spine has only 20 to 45 degrees of curvature in the upper back area.

Kyphosis is a type of spinal deformity and should not be confused with poor posture.

What causes kyphosis?

Kyphosis can be congenital (present at birth), or due to acquired conditions that may include the following:

Kyphosis is more common in females than males.

What are the symptoms of kyphosis?

The following are the most common symptoms of kyphosis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Back pain, pain down the legs, and changes in bowel and bladder habits are not commonly associated with kyphosis. A child experiencing these types of symptoms requires further medical evaluation by a physician.

The symptoms of kyphosis may resemble other spinal conditions or deformities, or may be a result of an injury or infection. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is kyphosis diagnosed?

The physician makes the diagnosis of kyphosis with a complete medical history of the child, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. The physician obtains a complete prenatal and birth history of the child and asks if other family members are known to have kyphosis. The physician also will ask about developmental milestones since some types of kyphosis can be associated with other neuromuscular disorders. Developmental delays may require further medical evaluation.

Diagnostic procedures may include the following:

Early detection of kyphosis is important for successful treatment. Pediatricians or family physicians, and even some school programs, routinely look for signs that kyphosis may be present.

Treatment of kyphosis:

Specific treatment for kyphosis will be determined by your child's physician based on:

The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the curve and prevent deformity. According to the Scoliosis Research Society, treatment may include:

Long-term outlook for a child with kyphosis:

The treatment of kyphosis is individualized for each child, depending on his/her age, amount of curvature, and amount of time remaining for skeletal growth. Kyphosis will require frequent examinations by your child's physician to monitor the curve as your child grows and develops. Early detection is important. If left untreated, kyphosis can lead to problems with lung function.

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