Back Braces Shown to Slow Spinal Curvature in Kids

Study: Back brace effective for pediatric scoliosis
curve in spine shown on xray

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A new study has found that for many children with the spinal deformity scoliosis, wearing a back brace may significantly improve their condition — even helping to avoid the need for surgery.

Scoliosis is curvature of the spine that can occur in children from 10 years old through maturity. It is one of the most common types of spinal deformities orthopaedic surgeons see, sometimes requiring spinal surgery if the curvature worsens over time.

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More than 70% saw scoliosis improve with bracing

The randomized study found that children with scoliosis who regularly wore a back brace slowed the progression of their condition and helped them avoid spine surgery. The University of Iowa study’s findings appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers split 242 scoliosis patients into two groups. They asked one group to wear a brace at least 18 hours per day, while the other group was observed.

Results: more than 70 percent of the kids who wore a brace saw their scoliosis improve compared to 48 percent of the children in the observation group.

Good evidence bracing is “very helpful”

Pediatric orthopaedic surgeon David Gurd, MD, did not take part in the study but treats scoliosis patients at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

“Now we have really good evidence that bracing is very helpful for all types of scoliosis, and for all different kids who have scoliosis,” says Dr. Gurd. “If you’re growing, the right thing to do if your curvature is above 20 to 25 degrees is to use the brace.”

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Results should be reassuring to parents and kids

The results of the study were so promising that researchers ended it early because of the success bracing had shown. Researchers also found that the longer the child wore the brace, the better the result.

Dr. Gurd says the study’s finding should reassure both children and parents how effective bracing can be.

“In the past I would prescribe a brace and parents and kids would ask, ‘Is it going to work?’” says Dr. Gurd. “I’d tell them there’s more than a 50 percent chance.

“Now I can say there’s an over 70 percent chance — and if you wear it faithfully, maybe over a 90 percent chance.”

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