Spinal deformities occur in the young (adolescents) and the elderly. In childhood scoliosis and Scheuermann's kyphosis are two relatively common conditions that progress with growth. Current treatment paradigms for these deformities include observation, brace treatment and surgery. Observation involves serial clinical follow- up typically requiring radiographic evaluation with the exposure of young individuals to ionizing radiation. The lifetime accumulated dose of radiation can be significant. Frequent (every 4 months) trips to the doctor are inconvenient to the family. A smart strategy that minimizes x-rays and doctor visits would be very significant. Scoliosis can progress at a rate of 1-3 degrees per month during the adolescent growth spurt. If the curve exceeds 25 - 30 degrees and there is substantial growth remaining brace treatment is the current recommended treatment. If the curve reaches 45-50 degrees then surgery is usually recommended. Scheuermann's kyphosis progression rates are unclear, but once the deformity reaches 75-80 degrees surgery is usually considered. A smart textile garment technology that could accurately detect deformity progression (or lack thereof) could help optimize medical care by minimizing unnecessary doctor visits and radiographs. It could also potentially discern deformity progression allowing for appropriate repeat evaluation. Sensing technology does not currently exist that is at once convenient, comfortable and aesthetically acceptable for a scoliosis patient to wear to monitor deformities of the spine. It is the objective of this project to develop smart textile technology that would make possible a shirt capable of sensing spinal curvature through sensors integrated into the fabric. Ultimately this garment would conform to the body and could be worn alone or under another shirt without any visible evidence that the clothing had an orthotic function. This smart textile technology has the potential to be applied in multiple applications in addition to monitoring deformity progression.
Scoliosis affects an estimated 6 to 9 million people in the United States. Every year, scoliosis patients make more than 600,000 visits to private physician offices, an estimated 30,000 children are fitted with a brace, and 38,000 patients undergo spinal fusion surgery. Scoliosis can develop in infancy or early childhood. However, the primary age of onset for scoliosis is 10-15 years old, occurring equally among both genders. Females, however, are eight times more likely to progress to a curve magnitude that requires treatment. The prevalence of Kyphosis is estimated to affect 4-8% of the general population. Scheuermann's disease is most frequently diagnosed between ages 13 and 17 years. The typical patient is between the late juvenile to age 16 years, commonly between 12 and 15 years. There is no specific gender prevalence