|MadSci Network: Anatomy|
Dear Chelsea, First I will answer your question of rods vs. braces. The answer is that you cannot compare rods vs. braces because doctors choose these different treatments for completely different reasons. So it's not a question of one treatment being more effective that the other, but rather evaluating the patient on the basis of several factors: 1) whether the child is preubertal (not gone though puberty yet) 2) what the degree of curvature is and 3) if the scoliosis is causing cosmetic or functional problems in the person's life. If the patient is a child and has not gone through puberty there is a much greater chance that a brace will work because the person's bones are still growing. If the curve is also a very slight one the brace also will have a better chance of working. If the scoliosis is severe enough to be readily noticeable or limits a person's functioning, then surgery will most likely be done even if the person is prepubertal. Also, orthopedic surgery techniques are becoming more and more sophisticated, so more and more surgery is being done on less severe cases in hopes of having a symptom free outcome without years of wearing braces. This is just a brief overview of some of the questions a surgeon will consider when treating scoliosis. Each surgeon will have slightly different criteria. Also, this is assuming the patient's scloiosis is ideopathic (without known cause). People can have scoliosis as a result of other illnesses, and then it will be treated differently. Now on to your science fair topic. If you really want to do it on scoliosis you could do your experiment from a public health point of view, which is just as important of a scientific field as staight science (chemistry, biology, etc.) but you might want to make sure it's okay with your teacher first. Public health experts do experiments where they either find out how much of a disease exists, what treatments work best, or how well the public understands a disease. This last part is where you come in. You could desgn a study that tests the public's knowledge of scoliosis. First you would do research about the disease and you will find out some interesting facts that the public really should know. For example: it occurs in girls more than boys, the earlier it is identified the better the outcome, that scoliosis not only happens in the young, but on the elderly. After you have done your research, you can pick out 5-10 questions for your questionnaire and go out and ask them. From a scientific point of view, the more people asked the better. Also you might want to make the questions multiple choice because it will be easier to count up the answers, although then you bring in more bias on the part of the researcher (you would be suggesting answers that they may not have thought of for themselves, therefore the survey would not be truly reflecting their own knowledge, but that of the researcher.) When writing up this public health experiment, remember to make sure you identify any possible bias you may have brought into the study, identify how you chose your subjects (the people you interviewed), and write a summary of what you think these statistics mean (are people educated about scoliosis or not). Of course, just as in a traditional science project, you need to make a hypothesis. Good luck with your project and your back! I wish you the best! Sarah Martin Mason Mad Scientist Tulane University School of Medicine
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