CHOP Team Leads Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Research

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The orthopedic surgery team at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has long led research into the causes of and safest treatments for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. As evidence of our expertise in this area, two such studies — Detection of Impending Neurologic Injury During Surgery for Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: A Comparison of Transcranial Motor and Somatosensory Evoked Potential Monitoring in 1,121 Consecutive Cases, and A Genome Wide Association Study Identifies IL17RC as an Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Locus — have garnered the Russell A. Hibbs Award for basic and clinical science research, respectively.

The Hibbs Award is given to the preeminent basic science and clinical papers presented at the Scoliosis Research Society Annual Meeting & Course that best exemplify the ideals and philosophy of Russell A. Hibbs, MD, and the Scoliosis Research Society relative to the causes, cures and prevention of scoliosis and related spinal deformities. Dr. Hibbs — an orthopedic surgeon who many credit as the founder of the modern era of orthopedics — introduced innovative surgical interventions for the treatment of spinal deformities in the early 1900s, helping to move the field from the repair of broken bones to the surgical specialty it is today.

“Developing improvements in spine surgery, while challenging intellectually and technically, is rewarding,” says John P. Dormans, MD, CHOP’s chief of orthopedic surgery and a member of the presidential line for the Scoliosis Research Society who currently serves as the Society’s vice president.

The genome-wide association study garnered the Hibbs Award in 2011. Along with Dr. Dormans, Struan Grant, PhD, one of the study’s lead researchers, subsequently worked with researchers from Orthopedic programs all over the country in order to combine such datasets, leading to the comprehensive paper Genome-wide association studies of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis suggest candidate susceptibility genes published in Human Molecular Genetics later that year.

“Dr. Dormans and I are now pursuing familial forms of this disease by leveraging the technology of exome sequencing in order to complement previous findings and to achieve further insight into the pathogenesis of the disease,” says Grant.

Dormans and other members of CHOP’s orthopedic surgery team carry on Dr. Hibbs’ inspiring example of innovation in the field of spinal deformities. Dormans himself has developed surgical techniques for use in spine surgery and led many studies in the area of scoliosis and pediatric spinal deformities, focusing on safety in spinal deformity surgery with spinal cord monitoring, surgical techniques, and intraoperative imaging.

“Surgical innovations can make a huge difference in a child’s life,” says Dormans. “Preventing progressive deformity and associated conditions that affect the quality of a patient’s life is what drives us to pursue these advances.”