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February 26, 1982

Electrical stimulation of muscles replaces braces for scoliosis

JAMA. 1982;247(8):1097-1098. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320330003001

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Until recently, a child with progressive scoliosis faced either years of treatment with a brace or major corrective surgery. Now two orthopedic research teams have limited the progression of scoliosis and sometimes actually reduced curvatures by using intermittent muscle contraction induced by electrical stimulation.

Walter P. Bobechko, MD, chief of orthopedic surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, accomplishes this by implanting into the subcutaneous tissue of the back a small batteryless receiver whose leads impinge on the deep paraspinal muscles on the convex part of the curve. A bedside radio transmitter activates the internal device, and treatment occurs only when the child is asleep.

A research team at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Engineering Center in Downey, Calif, headed by orthopedist John C. Brown, MD, favors instead external electrical stimulation of the lateral spinal musculature to achieve the same result. In this technique, two electrode disks connected to a