Bracing for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis has been controversial because it is not fully understood when bracing is beneficial and when it is not. Doctors at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children studied the efficacy of the Boston Brace when it was worn with compliance to the doctors’ prescribed time of daily brace wear.
In the study, 100 patients were followed who had spine curvature between 25 and 45 degrees at the start of the study. All patients were prescribed Boston Brace use for one year. There were two groups of patients - one instructed to wear the brace 16 hours per day and the other group instructed to wear the brace 23 hours per day. The braces used were equipped with heat sensors which monitored the amount of time the brace was worn. Patients were told the heat sensors were studying temperature data with comfort levels so their use behaviors would not be affected.
The results of the data did not show a difference between the two groups, but it did allow for data study on the actual time of brace use by the patients. In patients who wore the brace for more than 12 hours daily, there was an 18 percent failure rate at the end of the one year point. This was contrasted with the group who wore the brace less than 7 hours daily, where the failure rate was 69 percent. A failed result was defined in the study as a patient needing surgical intervention or a curvature that has more than 6 degrees of difference between when the brace is on and when the brace is off; there is a 0 degree difference when the brace is custom-fitted at the beginning of the study. Researchers noted the results show the amount of brace wear became more important as the age of the patient became younger. Bracing has been shown to be ineffective for adults with scoliosis in previous studies, since curvature is unlikely to progress after the body is done growing.
The results of this study give further understanding to how to best treat scoliosis and open up new routes of testing. The controversy about bracing is to determine when it is effective and when it is not necessary. If the bracing prevents curvature from progressing while the skeletal system matures and becomes more able to support itself, the bracing will have been a good thing. However, bracing is considered a reduction in quality of life because it restricts movement and the ability to do certain tasks and because of the social stigma of wearing a brace at school and in public.