Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)
An International Organization Dedicated to the Education, Research and Treatment of Spinal Deformity
Our Mission is to Foster Optimal Care for All Patients with Spinal Deformities
Thoracic insufficiency syndrome impacts the development of a child in two distinct ways. The first is the inability to support normal respiration. A thorax in early stages of deformity from scoliosis or from fused or absent ribs may have a minor degree of inhibition of respiration, and the patient may appear normal. As the deformity worsens, the respiration can become more labored with increased breathing rate and the inability to keep up with playmates in play activities. When thoracic volume is severely decreased and the diaphragm is the only source of respiratory effort, then children may need aides such as nasal oxygen, BiPap (pressure mask delivering oxygen), or even ventilator support to maintain life-sustaining oxygen levels in their blood. The second component of thoracic insufficiency syndrome is the inability of the thorax to support lung growth. Early in life, a small thorax may be adequate for an infant, but if the child grows without the thorax enlarging with normal growth sufficiently to accommodate adult size lungs, then by the time the patient becomes a teenager, the thorax that was adequate during early childhood is very inadequate for adult oxygenation needs.