Study suggests bracing is also effective in early-onset scoliosis patients

While the majority of studies on scoliosis bracing focus primarily on adolescent scoliosis sufferers, there are many other groups who do suffer from scoliosis in significant numbers. Over the last few weeks, we have looked at scoliosis treatment in older individuals -this week we’re examining the best options for very young (infantile or juvenile) patients.

Today, scoliosis in infants and juveniles is treated either with serial casting or with a bracing approach (bracing usually in children at the older end of the age range.)  Serial casting – where a child is placed in a series of casts, with the goal of correcting scoliosis has often been the preferred approach, since early-onset of scoliosis (EOS) patients are skeletally immature and have the largest potential for fast recovery through non-operative treatments[1]. As bracing technology has improved however, it has also become common practice for bracing to be prescribed after casting to maintain the initial correction. Bracing is now also prescribed to patients who are not able to tolerate casting[2] – but new research is now beginning to explore bracing as a “first choice” option for younger patients.

Such studies are welcome since overall, bracing studies are usually done on AIS patients, which means that while there is a strong case to be made for bracing in other groups, it has been slow to assemble the scientific proof of concept. A recent study from 2019 has now added significantly to our understanding of bracing in younger patients and is (so far as we are aware) the first study to explore the effectiveness of CAD/CAM bracing approaches in very young patients.

 

Bracing in young children – new research

The study[3], conducted at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin sought to understand how effective a customised over-corrective brace (like ScoliBrace) was in treating scoliosis in young patients with Infantile scoliosis (IS) and Juvenile scoliosis (JS).

Thirty-eight patients (22 males, 16 females; 17 IS, 21 JS) were recruited for this study. 9 children were diagnosed with neuromuscular scoliosis, 1 congenital scoliosis, and 28 with IS or JS. The average age was 6.2 years old (ranging from 4 months to 10-years-old). Criteria for inclusion included:
1) All subjects are diagnosed with IS or JS (idiopathic, neuromuscular, or congenital);
2) Subjects must have not had any type of spinal surgery prior to bracing treatment;
3) Must be under 10 years old during the time of their first scan;
4) Must have had at least one follow up visit after their baseline scan before the 12-month mark.

During the trial, investigators utilised 3D scanning technology (similar to BraceScan) to map the exact requirements for the scoliosis brace for each patient – this was then manufactured using a CAD/CAM approach, facilitating a very high degree of accuracy. At an initial fitting, a scoliosis specialist checked that the brace was functioning as required and made any small adjustments necessary.

Overall, amongst the patients as a group the starting Cobb angle was 38 ± 14° in the thoracic curve (ranging from 19° to 68°), 30 ± 9.6° in the thoracolumbar (ranging from 19° to 42°), and 36 ± 10.3° in the lumbar sections (ranging from 22° to 53°).

 

Results in younger patients

After brace fitting, the investigators followed the patients for 12 months, with a view to assessing change in Cobb angle.  Firstly, no patients required surgery within the 12-month span, whereas without bracing surgery may have been necessary at least in a few cases.

When compared to the baseline measurements, the in-brace correction reduced the Cobb angle in the patients from 38° to 24.2° in the thoracic region (a 36.3% reduction), 30° to 10.3° in the thoracolumbar region (a 65.7% reduction), and from 36° to 18.5° in the lumbar (a 48.3% reduction). The juvenile group had 23% correction, 47% stabilization, and 30% progression of curves. The infantile group had 50% correction, 32% stabilization, and 18% progression of curves. The following table shows the progress over a series of three-month evaluations.

 

Levels of Curve Month Cobb Angle (°) Curve change (°) % Change
Thoracic 0 38.0 ± 14.0 NA NA
3 30.1 ± 19.7 −5.6 −15.6%
6 30.2 ± 21.5 −5.5 − 15.5%
9 31.5 ± 24.2 −4.2 −11.6%
12 29.4 ± 24.3 −6.2 −17.5%
Thoracolumbar 0 30.0 ± 9.6 NA NA
3 25.2 ± 11.2 0.2 0.6%
6 24.8 ± 11.6 −0.2 −0.9%
9 24.3 ± 10.3 −0.7 −2.7%
12 23.9 ± 10.0 −1.1 −4.5%
Lumbar 0 36.0 ± 10.3 NA NA
3 25.4 ± 14.3 −3.5 −12.2%
6 27.9 ± 14.5 −1 −3.5%
9 30.2 ± 14.2 1.3 4.5%
12 29.9 ± 14.2 1 3.6%

 

 

Is Bracing effective in young patients?

While (as we mentioned at the outset) there have been few in-depth studies considering the effectiveness of bracing in younger patients, the research presented here certainly suggests that the positive results which are typically seen in adolescents can be replicated in younger children.

Overall, the bracing approach used was shown to be effective in correcting nearly half of the thoracic curves and one-third of the other curves, over a period of 12 months. When combining all data, 75% of curves were corrected or stabilized.

As well as being effective, a bracing approach also has significant benefits in terms of quality of life, and cost-effectiveness. Since younger children with scoliosis experience such rapid spinal growth and development, traditional casting needs to be repeated every couple of months – This may be less cost-effective and less patient-friendly because visits are more frequent and may require plaster casting to be done with the patient under general anaesthesia. Bracing, by contrast, requires only a single fitting & fewer follow up visits The brace can also be removed for daily washing which is better for the infants skin and hygiene. As the child grows and changes shape, further braces may be required to treat the scoliosis effectively.

If you would like to know more about bracing in younger children, please contact us.

 

 

[1] Mehta MH. Growth as a corrective force in the early treatment of progressive infantile scoliosis. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2005;87:1237–47.

[2] Weinstein SL, et al. Effects of bracing in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. N Engl J Med. 2013;369:1512–21.

[3] John Thometz, XueCheng Liu, Robert Rizza, Ian English and Sergery Tarima, Effect of an elongation bending derotation brace on the infantile or juvenile scoliosis, Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders 2018 13:13