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SOSORT 2022: a feedback by dr Sabrina Donzelli, the next president of SOSORT

We asked physiatrist Dr Sabrina Donzelli, one of our doctors at ISICO, to tell us about the highlights and significance of SOSORT, the international conference held at the start of May in San Sabastian.
We knew that the event would be an important occasion for the specialists in attendance, as they had not been able to meet in person for two years. Little did we imagine, though, when we approached Dr Donzelli, that we were asking the very person who, in the course of the event, would be named as the next President of SOSORT. The presidency of this association is a highly prestigious role. This is the fourth time an ISICO member has been chosen for the position, and Dr Donzelli is the first woman to have the honour.

We therefore begin this interview by extending our congratulations to Dr Donzelli.

1) Wow! Well, this was great news on two levels: first, because the position will once again be held by an ISICO member, and second, because this is the first time a woman has been chosen. The International Society has grown considerably over the years and now has a large membership with a good balance of men and women, even though this is not so true of the single professions. There aren’t many doctors in SOSORT; most of its members are physiotherapists. If you aspire to be President of SOSORT, you have to serve the organisation, putting in years of voluntary work. For some years now, I have been committed to doing all I can for SOSORT because I share its vision and its mission: to ensure that patients with scoliosis always receive the best treatment based on the scientific evidence. It is therefore important to be committed to research and to spreading knowledge. In other words, the mission is also to educate. My commitment and willingness have helped me become widely appreciated within the society, allowing me to join the executive board in 2019, and to be made President Elect this year. 

2) What did it mean, after three years, to finally be meeting in person, with colleagues all in one place rather than scattered around the world?

SOSORT, which dates back to as long ago as 2004, was created to bring together the world’s leading experts in the field of rehabilitation treatment for spinal disorders, to allow them to “compare notes” and increase the level of scientific evidence in the field, as well as improve the treatments available to patients. Over time, its missions and aims have been and continue to be updated, because medicine is a constantly evolving science. The last proper congress was held in San Francisco in 2019, after which the event moved online for a couple of years. It was therefore fantastic finally being able to get together in person again. We were able to talk face to face and really share, all together, our passion for what we do and our everyday challenges. All this is reflected in the slogan that was used to announce and promote the event: SOSORT 2022 – More than a congress: an experience in San Sebastian. You will never forget it! 

3) What are the main scientific developments you were able to take away with you? 

Epigenetics appears to be the future when it comes to improving understanding of scoliosis and trying to identify individuals at risk of developing it. Obviously, there is still a huge amount of work to be done, but at present this seems to be the way to go. 

Second, ultrasound is the future of radiation-free diagnostics, albeit perhaps not so much when applied to the spine as when used to estimate residual growth. In this regard, I should mention an interesting study by  Sanders based on ultrasound of the hand, Bracing outcomes in end-of-growth patients. Evidence to support the use of braces even towards the end of growth: it’s not too late to wear a brace.
Indeed, other studies similar to ours have shown that good results can be obtained even at the end of growth. There is also promising scientific evidence in patients who have finished growing: we at ISICO were the first to present these findings, and now other groups, too, are showing that good results are possible even in individuals with advanced bone growth. 

It is worth considering that three of the six studies in the running for the SOSORT Award dealt with outcome prediction: they ranged from Dr Lori Dolan’s study with 10-year follow up after the end of bracing treatment to our research conducted in collaboration Dr Eric Parent of the University of Alberta, in Canada, in which we attempted, in patients observed over time, to predict future curves solely on the basis of X-rays performed before they started treatment with braces or exercises. 

4) SOSORT Award: were there any surprises?

Not at all. The winning study was the strongest methodologically. The paper, on which we collaborated with the University of Alberta, illustrated a prediction model developed on the whole sample: it has some limits related to the heterogeneity of the data, which reflects that of scoliosis itself. Each patient has their own clinical history and this makes it difficult to predict how the disease will evolve in relation to age, time since onset, and residual bone growth estimated using the Risser classification. 

The Bracing in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Trial (BrAIST), on the other hand, is a fundamentally important study: it has demonstrated the therapeutic effectiveness of braces and shown that follow up over time is essential in order to advance the study of scoliosis. The monitoring of the patients observed and treated by these researchers will continue to give us important information, while the methodological rigour of their study is a guarantee of very reliable scientific evidence.  

Pictured, Sabrina Donzelli, together with organiser (SOSORT 2022 local host) Garikoitz Aristegui, and Judith Sanchez Raya, co-Chair of the SOSORT 2022 Scientific Committee

Isico’s research wins the SOSORT Award

For the fourth consecutive year, Isico has obtained the most prestigious award for those involved in rehabilitative treatment of the spine, winning the SOSORT Award with the study Prediction of Future Curve Angle using Prior Visit Information in Previously Untreated Idiopathic Scoliosis: Natural History in Patients under 26 Years Old with Prior Radiographs.

The research, which involved 2317 patients with idiopathic scoliosis between 6 and 25 years old, was developed by our researchers (the Isico authors are Prof. Stefano Negrini, together with Dr Giulia Rebagliati, Dr Fabio Zaina, Dr Sabrina Donzelli and Dr Alberto Negrini) in collaboration with Dr Erik Parent of the University of Alberta, Canada. This project was funded by a Standard Research Grant from the Scoliosis Research Society.

“Understanding natural history helps inform the treatment selection for modifying the course of the disease or to avoid overtreatment – explains prof. Stefano Negrini, Isico Scientific Director- Previous models predicting curve progression lacked validation, did not include the full growth spectrum or included treated patients. Our aim was to develop and validate models to predict future curve angles using clinical data collected only at, or both at and prior to, an initial specialist consultation in idiopathic scoliosis”. 

Scoliosis-specific exercises are recommended in small curves in skeletally immature patients, exercises and progressively more aggressive brace treatments are recommended for moderate and severe curves in 10% of growing children and adolescents and invasive corrective surgery is recommended in severe curves at risk of continued progression in adulthood for 0.1-0.3% of cases. 

“Patients were previously untreated and provided at least one prior radiograph prospectively collected at first consult – continues prof. Negrini – We excluded those previously treated”.

 Radiographs were remeasured blinded to the predicted outcome: the maximum Cobb angle on the last radiograph while untreated. Linear mixed-effects models with random effects and maximum likelihood estimate were used to examine the effect of data from the oldest visit (age, sex, maximum Cobb angle, Risser, and curve type) and from other visits while untreated (Max Cobb angle), and time (from oldest radiograph to prediction) on the Cobb angle outcome.

“Predictions models were proposed which can help clinicians predict future curve severity expected in patients not receiving treatment –ends prof. Negrini – Predictions can inform treatment prescription or show families why no treatment is recommended. Our models offer the flexibility to predict at a future timepoints over the full growth period. These validated models predicted future Cobb angle with 80% of predictions within 100 in non-treated idiopathic scoliosis over the full growth spectrum. Improved prediction ability may help clinicians inform treatment prescription or show families why no treatment is recommended”.

Ready for SOSORT

There are just a few days and the SOSORT  International Conference finally, after two years from the start of the pandemic, is back in person in San Sebastian, Spain from the 4th to the 7th of May.
It will be the usual pre-course, scheduled for May 4, to kick off the event: three of our specialists will participate in the round table, Dr Fabio Zaina, with a session on Overview of Adult Spinal Deformity classification, and how it is differing from AIS, Dr Sabrina Donzelli with  ASD prevalence and Dr Michele Romano, director of Isico Physiotherapy, with Standardized presentations describing assessment, clinical decision making process and treatment.

In the following days, Isico will be present again with three presentations: Dr Fabio Zaina will present on May 6th “Night-time bracing improves back pain in patients with painful scoliosis: six months results of a retrospective controlled study“, Dr Michele Romano on May 7th “Exercises for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: Updated Cochrane Review”  and finally, Prof. Stefano Negrini, scientific director of Isico, will compete for the SOSORT Award with his research Splitting Growth into 3 Phases with Cut-offs at Pubertal Spurt and Risser 3 Facilitates Prediction of Progression. A Study of Natural History of Idiopathic Scoliosis Patients from age 6 to End of Growth”.

For more info: https://sansebastian2022.sosort.org