Uncovering Reliable Spine Mobility: 3D Surface Topography Scans Reveal Surprising Results in Adolescents

Spinal surgeons at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City have discovered a revolutionary way to assess the range of motion of youth with scoliosis: full body scans in just a fraction of a second. This groundbreaking technology provides surgeons with an accurate and up-to-date assessment that is essential for planning the best course of treatment for those with the condition.

The revolutionary 3dMD technology has been used in the HSS laboratory for several years, but a new study has revealed that it can produce clinically meaningful information as well. Unlike traditional care, this 30-camera array does not require the use of potentially harmful x-rays or ionizing radiation, making it an invaluable tool in the care of adolescents with scoliosis. With this revolutionary system, these patients can now receive the care they need without having to expose themselves to repeated radiation.

Measuring spinal range of motion may sound straightforward, but it’s actually a complicated undertaking. According to Roger Widmann, MD, chief of the Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Service at HSS and co-principal investigator on a new study, the traditional gold standard has been x-ray imaging, which can be costly and expose patients to potentially dangerous radiation.

The revolutionary new technology developed by Dr. Widmann offers a reliable and cost-effective way to measure spinal range of motion, both in clinical and research environments. It is a safe, repeatable, and inexpensive method that promises to revolutionize the study and treatment of back-related conditions.

With 3dMD scans, spine surgeons can now make more informed decisions when it comes to surgical treatments, and better track the progress of scoliosis patients post-surgery. By providing objective measures of range of motion, this cutting-edge technology offers unprecedented insight into the complex world of spinal surgery, helping to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. As Dr. Widmann puts it, “we can now use 3dMD scans to improve our surgical decision-making.”

At the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the HSS team presented their findings in a poster titled “3D Surface Topographic Optical Scans Yield Highly Reliable Spine Range of Motion Measurements in Adolescents”, offering a new way to measure range of motion in this population. The findings suggest that 3D surface topographic optical scans are a reliable and accurate method of measuring range of motion in adolescents.

The advanced 30-camera array can create a stunningly detailed whole-body image of a standing person in the blink of an eye – faster than you can move! This incredible tech eliminates any blurriness from motion in any direction, giving you a vivid image without any motion blur.

In a groundbreaking series of studies, the HSS team and their colleagues have demonstrated a remarkable alignment between the images generated by their ultrafast cameras and the anatomy beneath the skin. This alignment is essential to the efficacy of 3dMD in the clinic, where it can be used to effectively treat scoliosis – a condition that affects 6 to 9 million people in the United States, or between 2% and 3% of the youth population.

Scoliosis can be a challenging condition to treat, but there are several solutions available. Physical therapy and bracing can help to correct the curvature of the spine, as measured by the Cobb angle. In more extreme circumstances, surgery may be necessary. No matter what the case, it is important to seek professional help in order to find the best possible treatment regimen.

Dr. Widmann’s team recently conducted an extensive study with the help of 3dMD technology, imaging 307 participants consisting of 254 boys and girls with scoliosis, and 53 without the condition. These participants were put through an array of exercises to test the mobility of their torsos in various directions.

Dr. Howard Hillstrom, a biomechanical engineer at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Senior Director of the Leon Root, MD Motion Analysis Laboratory, and Co-Principal Investigator on this project, is teaching us which parameters are more useful and which are not. By utilizing his expertise and knowledge, Hillstrom is helping us to better understand which parameters are necessary for successful outcomes.

The latest study has discovered two movements that can effectively distinguish between those with scoliosis and those with normal spines: reaching as far as possible to the left and right while standing, and bending down to touch the toes. This is an exciting breakthrough for accurately recognizing scoliosis in youth.

For those with scoliosis, the difference between the two sides of their body is striking. When measuring their flexibility from a point on their collarbone, they simply cannot bend as far as those with healthy spines. Even the most flexible children can reach the floor, while those with scoliosis may not be able to. It’s a telltale sign that helps distinguish those with scoliosis from those who are unaffected.

The newest study confirms what doctors and patients have long believed: the assessments of scoliosis are not only clinically and intuitively sound, but objectively accurate as well. The entire process, from the initial scan to the generation of results, is lightning-fast – taking under 10 minutes! Dr. Hillstrom states that this is a major breakthrough in the medical field.

With the development of a new system that measures scoliosis without the need for ionizing radiation, there is a newfound hope for those suffering from the condition. This is especially important, as scoliosis patients have a much higher incidence of cancer, breast cancer and cancer mortality than those without the condition. Experts believe this is due to the radiation received from x-rays and CT scans. This new system is a major breakthrough in the medical field, as it allows for the accurate measurement of scoliosis without exposing the patient to potentially harmful radiation.

School nurses are the first line of defense when it comes to scoliosis detection. During a routine check-up, they will often spot the tell-tale signs of this condition and advise parents to take their child to a doctor immediately. The physician’s first step will be to order an x-ray to confirm their suspicions. Early diagnosis is key when it comes to scoliosis, so parents shouldn’t hesitate to take action if they suspect their child may have it.

The HSS team has an impressive 3dMD database boasting imaging studies of over 300 teenage patients with scoliosis. Of those, around 50 are one year post-surgery and 30 are two years out, allowing the team to examine the lasting benefits of the technology. Parameters such as angle of trunk rotation, back surface rotation, and asymmetry in lateral bending and twisting have all been monitored for long-term changes. Dr. Widmann commented on the unique opportunity to observe such data.

About HSS

Hospital for Special Surgery is the world’s leading center for musculoskeletal health. Ranked #1 in orthopedics for 13 consecutive years and #3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2022-2023), HSS is also the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to the same publication’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2022-2023). The hospital has achieved the highest distinction for excellence in nursing service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. Newsweek has ranked HSS world #1 in orthopedics for the third year in a row (2023). With the lowest complication and readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection rates, HSS is revolutionizing patient care and expanding musculoskeletal research, innovation and education. Our research institute is comprised of 20 labs and 300 staff members, working to lead the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration.

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