For more than 50 years, orthopedic surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital and elsewhere have prescribed rigid back braces for some kids with scoliosis. In theory, bracing prevents worsening of the curvature and might allow the child to avoid surgery to correct the curve. But the treatment can be challenging. Subjecting a child to a bulky back brace during the emotionally vulnerable teen years is not high on any parent’s or physician’s wish list. Plus, until last week’s study published in New England Journal of Medicine, some physicians weren’t sure if bracing was effective.
“Although Boston Children’s Orthopedic Center always believed bracing worked and recommended it for appropriate patients, we wanted to have robust controlled data that prove or disprove that bracing is worth the efforts of the family and adolescent, as well as being cost efficient to the health care system,” says Daniel Hedequist, MD, orthopedic surgeon. In 2007, Hedequist and the Boston Children’s orthopedic center team joined the Bracing in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Trial (BrAIST) to help answer questions about the effectiveness of bracing.