Pediatric Neuro Spine Care for Kids

Specialists Treating Childhood Spinal Disorders

The Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Neuro Spine Care for Kids Program is one of the only multidisciplinary centers of its kind in the U.S. Our center provides care for children with neurosurgical spinal disorders throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

Our Approach

We work closely with patients and families to determine the best treatment option for your child. Whether your child needs neuro spine surgery or physical therapy, the type of treatment he will receive depends on his condition.

The Neuro Spine Care for Kids team works in collaboration with the Children's Orthopaedics Program, which has been ranked among the top pediatric programs in the country by U.S.News & World Report.

Trust our Pediatric Specialists

Our doctors and staff treat children every day, and they understand the unique needs of children. Our team is specially trained to treat children with complex neurosurgical spine disorders.

Conditions We Treat

  • Back and Neck Pain

      Back and neck pain are common complaints. Overexertion, minor trauma and children’s day-to-day activities are the most common causes.

      Call your doctor right away if your child has any of the following symptoms:

      Pain radiating down the arm or leg (radiculopathy)

      - Weakness and/or numbness

      - Change in bowel or bladder function

      - Pain that does not improve or worsens when lying flat (recumbent pain)

      - Worsening pain

      Treatment

      Our specialists work together to determine the best treatment path for each child. Rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, and time usually help resolve neck and back issues within a few days. If pain continues, a doctor might suggest additional medicine or imaging and tests. 

  • Chronic Pain

      Chronic (constant) pain from a variety of neurological and musculoskeletal conditions can affect the daily life of children and teens.

      Treatment

      Treatment can include medications, physical therapy, therapeutic injections or surgery. Your child's doctor will help determine the treatment path. Some spine procedures might reduce or eliminate the pain pathway, which can improve the child's quality of life.

  • Congenital Neurosurgical Spinal Disorders

      Congenital spinal disorders are conditions that are present at birth. They are often treated with surgery.

      Congenital syndromes with spinal disorders include:

      Down syndrome

      - Klippel-Feil syndrome (fusion of any two vertebrae in the neck)

      - Achondroplasia (a common form of dwarfism)

  • Craniocervical Junction Disorders

      Some spine disorders happen at the craniocervical junction. The craniocervical junction is a complex area where the skull and upper cervical spine (vertebrae right below the skull) join together. The connection between the brain and the spinal cord is at the base of the brainstem in the craniocervical junction region.

      Some of these disorders can happen at birth (congenital abnormalities) such as:

      - Basilar invagination and impression: The top of the vertebrae moves up and can cause the opening in the skull (where the spinal cord meets the brain) to narrow. It may also push on the brain stem. These conditions usually progress over time.

      - Segmentation defects: This condition involves abnormalities of the vertebrae.

      - Atlas assimilation: The atlas (first vertebra) fuses to the occipital bone before birth.

      - Hypoplasia: This condition involves an absence of parts of the spine and congenital fusions.

      - Developmental and acquired abnormalities: These conditions occur during development and include achondroplastic stenosis, osteogenesis imperfecta and renal rickets.

      - Platybasia: The occipital bone at the base of the skull is flattened.

      - Chiari malformation: The brain tissue drops into a large opening at the base of the skull (foramen magnum).

      - Encephalocele/Spina Bifida: The incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings.

      Symptoms

      Neck pain

      - Headache

      - Balance problems

      - Voice changes

      - Difficulty swallowing

      - Respiratory problems and/or sleep apnea

      - Motor speech issues such as difficulty articulating

      - Compression of the spinal cord

      - Spasticity

      - Twisted or rotated neck

      Treatment

      Our specialists work together to determine the best treatment path for each child. Our main goals are to determine the stability of the spine and prevent neurological injury.

      If the neck is stable, we can use non-surgical treatments. Our rehabilitation and pain management specialists can provide aggressive therapy. These specialists help reduce pain and improve a patient’s quality of life.

      If there is instability in the spine that could cause neurological damage, our doctors might perform surgery to fuse (join together) the unstable parts of the spine.

  • Herniated Discs

      Disc herniation in children has become more common. A herniated disc develops when one of the discs between the bones (vertebrae) of the spine moves out of position and presses on adjacent nerves. These discs are cushions that have a soft center and a hard outside. If the hard part of the disc cracks and the soft part is exposed, it is called a hernia. A herniated disc can also be called a “pinched nerve” or “bulging disc.”

      Symptoms

      Pain in the back and one or both legs

      - Numbness, tingling, or weakness in one or both legs

      Treatment

      Our specialists will find the best treatment path for each child. Physical therapy usually is the first step in treatment. If further treatment is needed, our specialists might recommend surgery to remove the disc. This surgery is called a discectomy. Children and teens typically do better after disectomy surgeries than adults. Most patients report satisfaction and have few complications. Children and teens often return to school and activities quickly after this type of surgery.

  • Spinal Degeneration

      Spinal degeneration happens when discs in the spine break down over time.

      Symptoms

      Back or neck pain

      - Arm or leg pain

      - Pain that gets worse with movements such as bending or twisting

      Treatment

      Treatment options include medicine, physical or occupational therapies, and minimally invasive surgery. Your child's doctor will help determine the best treatment path. Some spine procedures can reduce or eliminate the pain pathway, which can improve your child's quality of life.

  • Spondylolisthesis

      Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra is out of place. The most common form of spondylolisthesis in children is isthmic spondylolisthesis, often called a pars defect. A birth defect or trauma (most commonly a stress fracture) can cause this to happen.

      Symptoms

      Low back pain

      - Progressive instability of the spinal column

      - Spinal cord compression

      - Muscle spasms in the back of the thighs

      Treatment

      Most patients who receive medication, physical therapy and a doctor's supervision will improve without the need for surgery. In most cases, there is no reason to limit activities during this period.

      If surgery is recommended, surgeons might remove a part of the vertebrae, realign the spine and fuse it. This relieves pressure on the nerves or spinal cord and helps correct deformities. Surgery is used only for patients who show continued progression of their symptoms and/or spondylolisthesis. 

  • Spine Injuries

      Injuries to the spine range from simple muscle strain to paralysis. Sometimes trauma can cause immediate problems with the spine. Problems such as instability, scoliosis, kyphosis and chronic pain can develop years after the original injury.

      Treatment

      Our team is dedicated to helping pediatric patients with spinal cord injuries. Treatment options range from surgery and pain management to rehabilitation. 

  • Tumors of the Spine and Spinal Cord

      A tumor is a growth that can happen in the bones of the spine or in the spinal cord. Tumors of the spine and spinal cord can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).

      Symptoms

      Back pain (often at night while in bed)

      - Neurological deficits

      - Arm and/or leg scoliosis

      Treatment

      Our doctors will determine the best treatment path for each child’s cancerous or noncancerous tumors. Our surgeons can remove some tumors during surgery (resection). In other cases, more medical treatment after surgery might be necessary.

      Children with some conditions, such as neurofibromatosis, are more likely to develop spinal cord tumors. The majority of tumors happen in otherwise healthy children. 

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Video: 2014 November Comeback Athlete: Will Kimsey

2014 November Comeback Athlete: Will KimseyView

A 4-foot fall onto his back kept 14-year-old Will Kimsey from his favorite sport, swimming, for nearly two years. After surgery and months of physical therapy, Will is back in the pool, winning races and competing at the state level.

 

Video: Thompson's Journey with Spine Surgery

Thompson’s Journey with Spine SurgeryView
After severe pain led to a diagnosis of scoliosis and, eventually, a tumor on his spine, Thompson Ritter had to stop playing on his high school baseball team. Through multiple surgeries and rehabilitation at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Thompson, now 17, is back on the field.
 

Meet the Team

Contact Us

404-785-2100 or 1-877-785-2100