Like any part of the human body, the spine can be affected by congenital disorders. Congenital problems are defects in the anatomy that are present at birth. They are usually due to defects related to the formation of the fetus. Such defects can alter the anatomy of the spine that can affect its normal alignment and the related structures in and around the spine.
Some defects can be detected early at birth or sometimes symptoms manifest much later in life. Many individuals reach a ripe old age without even realizing that they have congenital problems of the spine. Not all congenital defects will be symptomatic.
Congenital spine problems will usually manifest in the following order.
Deformity - as the earliest and most common
sign and symptom of congenital
defects. Very early at birth some
defects can be detected already.
Many will be obvious in early
childhood when the child is already
active and abnormal posturing can
be easily noticed.
Weakness - unusual onset of weakness from
very mild trauma or even none at all
will usually elicit grave concern.
This symptom is usually caused by
compression of the spinal cord or
nerve roots due to "instability" of
the spine because of a defect in
either or both the static or dynamic
stabilizers of the spine.
Paralysis -sudden paralysis can happen in
instabilities that are caused by
congenital spine defects. This is
often preceded by unexplained
progressive weakness in an
otherwise normal and healthy
young child. Immediate medical
consult should be sought when this
Pain - Pain is not a common complaint in
patients with congenital defects
unless inflammation of the neural
tissues and other parts of the spine
is triggered by compression or
instability of the spine anatomy.
Congenital defects to the spine are easily detected nowadays because of good imaging technology at hand. Your spine specialists would normally order one or combination of all these labs to fully evaluate your spine and offer the best management.
- CT Scans and 3-D reconstructions
This is a sample of how a congenital failure in the formation of a vertebra results in a "hemivertebra." The hemivertebra affects the growth of the other vertebrae resulting in a congenital scoliosis