Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 03, 2013

New Research Looks at the Effectiveness of Braces for Scoliosis

As a musculoskeletal disorder, scoliosis can manifest itself with different levels of severity of a sideways curvature of the spine or backbone. While some patients only require periodic observation by their doctor, those who have severe form of scoliosis will have to endure surgery to straighten the spine. A new study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine which was supported by Shriners Hospital for Children, The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research said that bracing in adolescence with idiopathic scoliosis lowers the chances of the condition progressing to the point where surgery is needed.

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) affects one in 1,000 children and currently there is no known cause for the condition. The effectiveness of bracing in AIS has been questioned for some time, but this recent study has shown the effectiveness of bracing.

The Bracing in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Trial (BrAIST) included 380 subjects at 25 different locations in the U.S. and Canada including 78 patients from seven Shriners hospitals for children. It compared the risk of curve progression in adolescents with this condition between patients that wore braces and those that didn't.

The patients who wore the braces had a combined 72 percent success rate. According to the trial, success meant the patient reaching skeletal maturity while the curve remained under 50 degrees. The participants wore the braces between 13 to 18 hours daily, with patient's wearing the brace for 13 hours achieving a success rate of 90 to 93 percent.

"Knowing – with confidence - that bracing is effective changes the treatment paradigm. We can now say, for a specific patient population with AIS, that we can avoid the need for surgery through bracing," said Matthew Dobbs, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children – St. Louis, and lead investigator for the Shriners Hospitals’ portion of the study.

The conclusion of the study holds great promise for children afflicted with this disorder because it means that invasive surgery required to correct the spine will not be necessary in the vast majority of the cases.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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