Scoliosis Course at UDB a Success

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By Joyce Tan
Students from IIT and UDB work  together on one of the young patients.
Students from IIT and UDB work together on one of the young patients.

The presentation of a new, cost-efficient kit to facilitate bracing for scoliosis patients was the culmination of a year-long project to develop a basic system whose prototype was designed by Jose Miguel Gomez, MD, and Nicolas Rojas, Gilete, O and P International. The kit was a focal point during a weeklong seminar on spinal orthotics held in May at Don Bosco University (UDB) in El Salvador's capital, San Salvador. Co-hosts were an Interprofessional Project (IPRO) team from Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology, led by Professor Kevin Meade, PhD, and Patrick Flanagan, CO. (See "Project to Aid Scoliosis Patients in Developing Countries," The O&P EDGE, May 2003; Quick Code: EDGV503)

The only O&P educational program in Central America accredited by the International Society for Prosthetics & Orthotics (ISPO), Don Bosco is host to student trainees from a multitude of countries in Central and South America. The seminar was attended by orthotics students in their final year at UDB and professionals from various related fields, including physical therapy, orthopedics, and orthotics. Participation and insight from attending physicians (Dra. María Teresa de Avila, Dra. Luz Marina Araujo de Jaco, Dra. Severita Carrillo Barrientos, Dr. Manuel Reinaldo Contreras Bonilla, and Dr. Hernán Darío Sánchez) truly enhanced the educational experience. In my opinion, the greatest advantage of the ITT group's liaison with UDB was the initiation of a waterfall effect of knowledge that was disseminated to students who can return to their home countries to better treat patients.

The first day of the seminar kicked off on a positive note with friendly introductions, thought-provoking questions, and the discussion of individual expectations. The three main expectations of the seminar were: 1) to attempt to create a standardized treatment protocol including the clinical exam, x-ray evaluation, and orthotic treatment; 2) to focus on a biomechanical approach to scoliosis treatment rather than a specific brand or type of brace, and 3) a start-to-finish learning process about the causes of scoliosis and options for treatment. Questions about the scoliosis kit primarily pertained to the advantages of this technology in developing countries. As Dr. Gomez explained, the difference lies largely in the tendency in wealthier countries, such as the US, to have greater access to surgical treatment. In countries where surgery is less available, effective orthotic treatment can help obviate the need for surgery. Understanding different biomechanical approaches and fabrication techniques can improve orthotic management of scoliosis. Furthermore, the simplicity and flexibility of the kit allows for greater use, mobility, and standardization in environments that lack access to other alternative treatments.

During the week, a variety of scoliosis cases were evaluated for treatment, using the kit. The scoliosis kit was utilized in three cases with remarkable results. After a week of intense lectures, castings, fabrication, and fittings, each case was presented on the final day. Significant correction, clinically and radiographically, could be seen in every single case. Long-term feedback from patients and follow-up medical exams will be an important factor in determining the complete effectiveness of this system, but the results so far are certainly encouraging.

The considerable success of the project in achieving its goals can be attributed to the participation and critical analysis of students, participating professionals, and UDB faculty. The exchange of ideas and specialized knowledge was an accomplishment only superseded by the new ties forged out of mutual respect and friendship of all in attendance.

(To read a report in Spanish by Bairon Mejía and Marvin Gramajo, visit www.oandp.com/edge)

This IPRO project in scoliosis is an ongoing effort at IIT. For more information and to view photos, visit www.iit.edu/~ipro319f.

Joyce Tan is a fifth-year student pursuing a bachelors degree in architecture through the five-year professional program at the Illinois Institute of Technology.