I had the opportunity this year to attend the annual Society of Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT) conference in San Francisco, USA. I was able to attend the conference due to the generous contributions of Opcare and the Orthotic Education Training Trust
(OETT). SOSORT is an international society that focuses on the conservative treatment options for spinal deformity; its aim is to be a platform for researching and presenting on the best non-surgical treatments for scoliosis but also to encourage a multidisciplinary approach to the questions that need answering. Previously I have attended the annual meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia and the preconference education day in Lyon, France both of which were invaluable in my knowledge and care of patient with spinal deformity so I was greatly looking forward to another informative and enlightening experience.
The pre-conference education day this year was themed on the growth and development of scoliosis and was kicked off with a fantastic talk from Dr Stuart Weinstein who has been instrumental in changing the landscape of conservative treatment for scoliosis since his paper in 2013 proving the
efficacy of bracing. He spoke about the natural history of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) and how important it is to keep the natural history in mind as clinicians, specifically the risk of progression and how this should influence the decision to treat and what treatment options should be offered. Dr Weinstein outlined some work he has done on the likelihood of progression based on long term follow up to study the natural history of non-surgically treated scoliosis patients and determined that coronal curves under 30° that reached maturity did not get worse into adulthood. This long term follow up also showed that adults with a 30° scoliosis did show any increased chance of functional disability – this conclusion is a bold one, and certainly one that until further evidence is gathered should be treated with caution as his BrAIST paper was.
The rest of the Pre conference education day went on to talk about the less commonly discussed sagittal and transverse plane deformities, and how we should be looking at these in more detail both in research as well as clinical practice, how the anatomy of growth can predict the progression of scoliosis, and also the evidence supporting the reintroduction of screening for scoliosis.
The first day of the conference kicked off with a session on patient centred care and pulmonary issues. The theme of the talks was generally related to quality of life and adherence to treatment and how this can affect the outcomes of treatments. Ideas were presented on how to improve these two areas including patient decision tools and community education. Later in the day a session on physiotherapy scoliosis specific exercise (PSSE) and scoliosis screening brought talks on starting conservative treatment earlier on in the natural history of scoliosis and how this might affect need for treatment later. There were also talks on the evidence behind PSSE which is brilliant to see as historically PSSE has been very low in evidence and is hopefully going to be the next big push in research now bracing has been successfully identified as a conservative treatment for scoliosis. The rest of day one was made up of talks on flexibility of the trunk and how bracing can affect this as well as the accuracy of current measuring tools for axial trunk rotation and the development of new tools.
Day two started with the papers that had been nominated for the best SOSORT paper. There was a good range of topics, specifically of interest to me as an orthotist were the talks on long term follow up after brace treatment which confirmed Dr Weinsteins results that curves under 30° at end of growth did not progress in adulthood. There was also a recommendation that late risser patients of 3-5 should still be treated despite them being outside guidelines for brace treatment based on the results of long term follow up for cobb angles over 30°. Later in the day was a session on adult deformity, despite not seeing patients in this cohort myself it was and interesting insight into a different aspect of scoliosis care. I learnt the effectiveness of the same treatments I am confident with in the paediatric population and how treatment must change for the adult one.
Day two finished with the consensus report from the brace classification working group. Of the whole conference, this topic was one of the ones I was most looking forward to. The working group failed to come to a consensus last year and so was reformed this year to attempt the same
challenge. That challenge was to bring together the definitions of as many braces used worldwide and try and classify them with a system that will be universally recognised. If successful, this will improve the reliability of future studies into brace treatment as braces with the same classification can be directly compared on a cross centre basis. The consensus report was the early stages of this process and has narrowed down the technical factors of bracing into 5 key principles; Overall action e.g. elongation, Rigidity, Anatomy e.g. TLSO, Planes (the primary corrective plane) and Construction. This consensus will hopefully lead the way for better quality research and therefore lead to better treatment recommendations from official establishments, for us in the UK this will hopefully lead to NICE guidelines specifically related to treatment on scoliosis – at the moment the only mention of scoliosis under NICE is that of one specific surgical technique.
The last day of the conference focussed on the bracing and treatment adherence which had been briefly covered earlier on day one, some centres have developed information booklets and others are looking at validating online questionnaires to get more information on why patients are not
compliant with treatment. One particularly interesting talk was on the development of clinical practice guidelines based on the 2006/2008 SOSORT guidelines on brace biomechanics and clinical management and the mandatory training of clinicians on these guidelines.
Compared to the previous years conference in Dubrovnik, there was less quantity of talks on bracing however the talks that were present were of incredible quality and have a large impact on clinical practice in the next few years. I look forward to the continued work into the Consensus project and look forward to hearing updates on this at SOSORT 2020. It is also fantastic to hear the increased support for research into PSSE which is the next stage in cementing the importance of conservative treatment in scoliosis, specifically the essential part the MDT needs to play in getting successful outcomes. It was also important to remember the benefit of looking back at the natural history of scoliosis, how this informs us on the evolution of treatment and how losing sight of this can be detrimental to our long-term goals of scoliosis research and our short terms aims of individuals treatment.