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  Home  ›  SpineCor   Pediatric Brace  ›  The Straits Times
The Straits Times
Apr 21, 2009 The Straits Times

New brace 'better for crooked spines'


Loraine Choo has even been able to play volleyball while wearing her new brace.

By Lee Hui Chieh

PATIENTS whose spines are crooked now stand a better chance of avoiding surgery with a new body brace that prevents their condition from worsening.

Studies have shown that 77 per cent of scoliosis patients do not need surgery to prop up their spines after using the new brace, called SpineCor, compared with just 21 per cent of those who use the conventional one.

The new brace, made of a series of elastic bands adjusted to fit each patient, is also more comfortable, flexible and is easier on the eye than the conventional brace made of hard plastic.

These attributes are important because they allow patients to carry out most daily activities, including sports, while wearing them. Thus patients are more likely to wear them the whole day as recommended, said Dr Kevin Lim, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), which started fitting patients with the new brace in January.

He said: 'With the old brace, only 50 per cent of the patients wore them most of the day. If they don't wear it, it's not doing what it's supposed to do.'

A patient whose spine is bent at an angle of between 25 and 40 degrees is asked to wear a brace for 20 to 22 hours daily. This does not correct the existing curvature, but it reduces the risk of the spine becoming even more crooked.

If the curvature grows to 40 to 50 degrees despite the brace, surgery is required. This involves inserting metal implants such as rods and screws to 'fuse' the spine in a straight position.

Since KKH introduced the new brace, all its patients who need bracing have chosen it over the old one, Dr Lim said. And most of them have been wearing it for the recommended 20 hours a day.

So far, 17 patients have been fitted with the new brace, and seven more have made appointments to be fitted.

But KKH will still offer the old brace as an option for those who cannot afford the new one. The total cost of the new brace, fitting and physiotherapy sessions can go up to $3,700, about four to five times that of a conventional brace.

Mrs Raine Choo, an executive in her 40s, opted for the new brace for her 12-year-old daughter Loraine.

With her new brace, Loraine has taken part in her physical education classes and played volleyball, which would not have been possible with the conventional one.

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine is curved sideways at an angle of more than 10 degrees. Its exact cause is not known. About 2 per cent of girls here, aged between 11 and 12, have scoliosis. Seven times more girls are affected than boys.

Most patients develop it during their teenage years, usually between the ages of 10 and 18, when they are experiencing growth spurts. Any treatment required is usually given during this period as patients' conditions are unlikely to worsen significantly after puberty.

(Source: The Straits Times)

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