Brace treatment for patients with Scheuermann's disease - a review of the literature and first experiences with a new brace design

Scoliosis. 2009 Sep 29;4:22. doi: 10.1186/1748-7161-4-22.


Background: In contemporary literature few have written in detail on the in-brace correction effects of braces used for the treatment of hyperkyphosis. Bradford et al. found their attempts effective, treating Scheuermann's kyphosis with Milwaukee braces, but their report did not specifically focus on in-brace corrections. White and Panjabi's research attempted to correct a curvature of > 50 degrees with the help of distraction forces, but consequently led to a reduction in patient comfort in the application of the Milwaukee brace. In Germany they avoid this by utitlising braces to treat hyperkyphosis that use transverse correction forces instead of distraction forces. Further efforts to reduce brace material have resulted in a special bracing design called kyphologic brace. The aim of this review is to present appropriate research to collect and evaluate possible in-brace corrections which have been achieved with brace treatment for hyperkyphosis. This paper introduces new methods of bracing and compares the results of these with other successful bracing concepts.

Materials and methods: 56 adolescents with the diagnosis of thoracic Scheuermann's hyperkyphosis or a thoracic idiopathic hyperkyphosis (22 girls and 34 boys) with an average age of 14 years (12-17 yrs.) were treated with the kyphologic brace between May 2007 and December 2008. The average Stagnara angle was 55,6 degrees (43-80). In-brace correction was recorded and compared to the initial angle using the t-test.

Results: The average Stagnara angle in the brace was 39 degrees . The average in-brace correction was 16.5 degrees (1-40 degrees ). The verage percentage of in-brace correction compared to the initial value was 36%. The differences were significant in the t-test (t = 5.31, p < 0,001). To make these results comparable to other studies, the kyphosis angle of 25 degrees was set to 0 for our sample in order to achieve a norm value adapted (NVA) percentage of in-brace correction. By doing this a correction of 54.1% was achieved. There was no correlation between the percentage of in-brace correction and the age of the patient, but a highly significant correlation between percentage of in-brace correction and the initial Stagnara angle.

Discussion: If we assume that outcome of brace treatment positively correlates with in-brace correction, the treatment should be initiated before the curvature angle exceeds 50 - 55 degrees in a growing adolescent. In scoliosis bracing, if the average in-brace correction equals > 15 degrees , then it is predicted that the result will lead to a final correction. Applying this to hyperkyphosis patients, the average in-brace correction with this brace was also > 15 degrees . We therefore estimated to achieve a favourable outcome using this brace type (once compliance was attained) especially when comparing the correction effects achieved with this new approach to the correction effects reported upon using the Milwaukee brace. The latter brace has been shown to lead to beneficial outcomes in long-term studies with comparable in-brace corrections.

Conclusion: Conservative treatment of Scheuermann's hyperkyphosis in international literature is generally regarded as an effective treatment approach. Physiotherapy and bracing are the first-line treatments for this condition.An average in-brace correction of > 15 degrees as was achieved using the kyphologic brace predicts a favourable outcome.The kyphologic brace leads to in-brace corrections comparable to those of the Milwaukee brace, which has previously been shown to provide beneficial outcome in the long-term.A prospective follow-up study seems desirable before final conclusions can be drawn.Future studies should focus more on thoracolumbar and lumbar curve patterns, because these patterns may predict chronic low back pain in adulthood with reduced quality of life of the patients and high costs with respect to medical care and occupational sickness leave.Surgery according to international literature is rarely necessary in this condition.