MadSci Network: Anatomy

Re: What could I use for a science fair project under the topic of scoliosis?

Date: Sun Oct 15 12:12:38 2000
Posted By: Sarah Martin Mason, Medical student, Medicine, Tulane University School of Medicine
Area of science: Anatomy
ID: 971037731.An

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 

Sarah Martin Mason
Mad Scientist
Tulane University School of Medicine 

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