A recent analysis states that two out of every hundred children and young people between the ages of 10 and 18 suffer from a curvature of the spine. In nine out of ten cases, the exact causes of the spinal curvature are unknown.
In most cases, scoliosis or abnormal lateral curvature of the spine develops because of the unequal pressure that muscles on the sides of the spinal column tend to exert.
Now, Fraunhofer scientists have developed a special implant designed to actively stimulate muscles near the spinal column to train the weak side to catch up with the strong one.
Features of the new implant include wireless charging and data transmission. According to researchers, the device can be customized for better individual results.
The battery in the implant lasts around nine days before it needs to be recharged. Recharging takes roughly 90 minutes and is done wirelessly through an inductive coupling. The data, too, are sent wirelessly from the implant to an external reader device - and vice versa.
This makes it possible both to track the muscle activity measured in the body and to tailor each Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) patient's stimulation and resting times on an ongoing basis depending on the state of their muscles.
"Our partners in Valencia were responsible for designing the relevant system. Should the implant be given to children with AIS one day, it will be their attending physician who operates the reader device," says Heinig.
Initial testing showed that the technology works in principle. To position the fine electrodes in exactly the right place in the deep muscles along the spinal column, French company Synimed developed special precision surgical instruments.