Children with mobility issues are provided with treatment by pediatric orthopedic specialists. They are pediatric surgeons who have specialized training in orthopedics. Depending on the type of mobility and the severity of the condition, pediatric orthopedic specialists may initially recommend non-surgical treatment that might help the child restore some level of mobility.
Physical therapy and use of assistive aids and prosthetics are two of the common non-surgical alternatives; however, when such options fail to improve the child’s condition, surgery may be recommended depending on the child’s age and health conditions. Orthopedic specialists will then have to confer with the child’s primary care pediatrician to assess the options available. Pediatric orthopedic specialists can also treat children with congenital deformities or conditions, musculoskeletal injuries, neurological disorders, and even scoliosis.
Children’s Orthopedic Problems
There are children born with certain birth defects and abnormalities on anatomical structures and functions. Birth defects such as club foot, spina bifida, or extra digits on hands and feet may be surgically treated by a pediatric orthopedic specialist. Depending on their condition, they will be monitored and observed for a specific period before diagnosis and the corresponding treatment may be determined.
This is commonly seen in young children who are still learning to walk. It usually corrects itself by the child’s 2nd year. However, if toe walking is not resolved even when the child is already 3 years old, it will be considered abnormal and should be consulted with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Orthopedic surgery will make the Achilles tendon longer which will allow the landing of the heel before the toes during walking. Surgery is done where non-surgical treatments fail to correct the abnormality.
A child who is born with clubfoot – a congenital deformity of the feet – has feet pointing down and inwards. Treatment is usually done right after the baby’s birth. In some cases, however, a surgical procedure may be necessary. A pediatric orthopedic surgeon will loosen the tight tendon (Achilles) so the foot can assume its normal position. The child will wear night time braces after the casts are removed until about age two.
This is a condition usually seen in children where an undescended scapula sits higher on the back than on the other side. When Sprengel’s Deformity has caused the child with significant shoulder function problems or an unsightly appearance of the back, orthopedic specialists will have to perform surgery to reposition the scapula along with the muscles surrounding it.
Congenital Vertical Talus
This is an uncommon foot deformity among newborn babies. Pediatric orthopedic specialists will perform surgery before the child reaches 2 years of age to release the tight tissues that are preventing the foot to assume the normal position. Before surgery, treatment will consist of manipulation and casting to stretch the right foot.
Sports and activity-related Injuries
Active and athletic children can sustain injuries from sports and similar activities. Children who do end up with broken or fractured bones must be sent to a pediatric orthopedic specialist so that the injury can be analyzed and a proper treatment plan can be made. Severe injury may result in a disruption in the natural growth pattern of the child if appropriate treatment is not applied.
Children with torn cartilage injuries may sometimes require orthopedic surgery. If untreated, the injury may cause permanent damage to the joints of the knee or elbow. Children who are active participants in contact sports such as football are prone to such injuries. For older athletic children, rotator cuff tears may be common and if the tear impairs mobility, a surgical procedure may be required.
Scoliosis and Slipping of the Hip Epiphysis
It is during the child’s pre-teen and teenage years when scoliosis and slipping of the hip epiphysis or growth center may occur. Scoliosis is common in teenage girls, while slipped epiphyses are common in overweight children. Scoliosis is usually treated with non-surgical methods such as the installation of braces. Where the curves are not contained by the braces, surgery may be the next option. Slipped epiphyses, on the other hand, can be managed if caught early by pinning the hip in place. Similarly, if pinning does not prevent the hip from slipping further, pediatric orthopedic specialists may have to operate.
Common Fractures and Neurological Disabilities
Though commonly occurring in children, there are fractures that require anatomic or perfect alignment. For minor fractures, the bone usually aligns itself over time. A pediatric orthopedic surgeon fixing a pediatric fracture should not injure the growth center during surgery.
Children who have neurological disorders or disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, spinal injury, cerebral palsy, and traumatic brain injury can benefit from pediatric orthopedics. These conditions are treated with surgery and should not be ignored as they can progress to lifetime disabilities and irreparable deformities. In most cases, surgical procedures are combined with physical therapy and other non-surgical methods to achieve an optimal outcome. If cared for by pediatric orthopedic specialists, children with such conditions will have the opportunity for growth and productive lives.