By: Emma Rooholfada, Student Writer

 

Research in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) has progressed substantially in recent decades. However, researchers and patients still have many unanswered questions regarding the different treatment methods and their effects. The Harms Study Group (HSG) currently has many studies that need more resources. One such study analyzes postoperative motion in AIS patients.

This study aims to shed light on two questions: how the fused, motionless upper segments of the spine affect the motion of the unfused segments below, and whether or not that motion changes over time after a fusion.

Postop Motion X-ray with a left and right bends.

According to Executive Research /Director, Michelle Marks, “Understanding how the spine moves when a fusion is performed is really critical because we need to understand whether potential altered movement is related to disc degeneration.”

Researching postoperative motion can also impact surgical treatment for prospective AIS patients. Surgeons are learning that long fusions may potentially negatively impact disc health, thus strengthening the case for shorter fusions.

The study group has gathered data from patients at the ten-year postoperative point. They have analyzed patients with varying degrees and forms of AIS in hopes of determining the relationship between different types of curves and treatment methods, and motion after surgery. Colleagues of HSG have carried out similar studies in the past using a motion analysis lab. However, the technology in such labs has proved unsuccessful in measuring the motion of individual spinal segments. Instead, HSG has turned to a new method.

“We perform x-rays in maximal bending to the right and maximal bending to the left, and we do a calculated motion between the two angles to each side,” Marks said.

Dr. Baron Lonner, surgeon member of HSG, is studying disc health in AIS patients. Lonner has evaluated radiographic markers of disc degeneration in patients at the ten-year postoperative point.

“We’re hoping to look at the relationship between what I’m finding in alterations in motion and what Dr. Lonner’s finding on radiographic markers of disc degeneration,” Marks said.

Unfortunately, the study lacks proper funding. When the study first began, SSS acquired a grant from the Scoliosis Research Society. Since then, SSS has funded the study, but demands from other areas have left the study of postoperative motion without financial backing.

Hopefully, with the contributions of patient families and supporters of AIS research, the clinical questions of postoperative motion may soon be answered.