Research Projects

Development and Validation of a Non-ionizing Radiation Technique to Estimate Spine Posture from Back Surface Topography Using Depth Cameras for the Evaluation of Scoliosis

Biokinematic analysis and assessment of scoliosis both call for measurements of in vivo spine position. This generally requires tomographic imaging which carries significant limitations. Subjects are typically supine rather than upright (Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Computed Tomography) and scanners are large and expensive, limiting their availability. Traditional radiography can provide load- bearing structural imaging but only in flat projections, and still largely limited to hospital settings. Meanwhile, biokinematics and clinical care have benefited from increasingly sophisticated optical techniques that are capable of accurately estimating bone pose for extremities in dynamic tests. This research aims to bridge this gap to provide accurate estimates of vertebral positions using low-cost, easily deployed, noninvasive imaging systems.

Need for Surface Based Spine Estimation

This research targets at the assessment of scoliosis, which in the United States affects up to 5% of adolescents ( two million), 8% adults (16 million), and 70% of the elderly. The national mean cost of hospitalization for patients with a primary diagnosis of idiopathic scoliosis was $67,400 in 2011 for an average hospital stay of 5.6 days. Most cases of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis are mild and for non-progressive cases observation rather than intervention is indicated. However, even mild cases of spinal deformity may call for regular radiography, resulting in a significant load of ionizing radiation, while longitudinal studies have found significant increases in breast and endometrial cancer for scoliotic subjects.

It is therefore highly desirable to reduce exposure toionizing radiation for scoliotic patients, especially in adolescence when risk of carcinogenesis is highest and spinal curvature progresses most rapidly. Furthermore, non-invasive screening techniques suf- fer from poor specificity/sensitivity and there is currently no accurate test for scoliosis outside of radiography. Wide availability of an accurate non-invasive system would enable screening for scoliosis in adolescents resulting in earlier diagnosis and treatment.