A brace is generally recommended for scoliosis curves that are greater than 20° and less than 45º-50°. Braces are worn in an effort to stop the spine from progressing to greater degrees of curvature. While they will not improve the current degree of scoliosis, they may prevent progression that could lead to a need for surgery.
Your child will be asked to wear the brace for 16 to 23 hours a day. He or she will be given special exercises to do to maintain lung function.
If a brace is necessary, it will be worn until the child is no longer actively growing. At this point, it’s thought that the degree of scoliosis will be stable. If the degree of scoliosis continues to progress despite the brace, surgery may be advised if the curvature reaches approximately 40° to 50°.
It can be awkward to wear these braces. They are uncomfortable and hot, and many adolescents feel embarrassed about appearing so different.
Types of braces include:
This brace covers the entire torso. It has a an area to rest the chin and a headrest for the back of the head. One flat bar travels down the front, and two flat bars travel down the back. This type of brace is used for scoliosis occurring at any point along the spine.
Thoracolumbosacral Orthosis (TLSO) or Boston Brace
This brace is a bit less chunky and obvious than the Milwaukee brace. It does not extend up under the chin or behind the head. Instead, it stays under the arms and wraps around the back, rib cage, lower back, and hips.
Charleston Bending Brace
This is a brace that is worn only at night. Questions remain about its effectiveness.
Researchers are still looking into this new type of brace that consists of a cotton vest and adjustable bands. Its effectiveness is still being evaluated.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org/ .
Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics . 10th ed. Mosby; 2003.
Katz DE, Herring JA, Browne RH, Kelly DM, Birch JG. Brace wear control of curve progression in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. J Bone Joint Surg Am . 2010 Jun;92(6):1343-1352.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .
Negrini S, Minozzi S, Bettany-Saltikov J, et al. Braces for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD006850.
Scoliosis Research Society website. Available at: http://www.srs.org/ .
Last reviewed September 2012 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 09/28/2012
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