Blog PostsApr 23, 2024

Motion Analysis Drastically Improves Spina Bifida Patient Care

Written by Vedant Kulkarni, Assistant Chief of Orthopedics at Shriners Children’s Northern California

For some Spina Bifida pediatric patients, coordinating complex movements like running with their friends, picking up a pencil, or throwing a baseball can be uncomfortable, difficult, or even impossible. As a child grows and develops, so does their ability to move. When a child has a condition that changes typical development and makes movement difficult, advanced diagnostic techniques may be necessary to fully understand what’s causing the problem. Data collected in motion analysis centers can help a patient’s medical team understand the movement of children with Spina Bifida, and develop an appropriate treatment plan based on the data that’s collected.

Since 1996, Shriners Children’s motion analysis centers (MACs) have been collecting data to more effectively treat patients with conditions that affect their movement. Shriners Children’s Northern California operates one of the 14 motion analysis centers in the Shriners Children’s healthcare system, utilizing high-level technology, infrared cameras, and advanced computer programming to assess patients before and after surgery, thereby improving individual patient treatment plans.  

The multi-disciplinary staff of the MAC includes engineers, therapists, and kinesiologists.  They collect a large of amount of data including joint movement, joint forces, muscle activity, and foot pressures, which is then presented weekly to a group of physicians and providers for interpretation.  

“Typical human movement during walking is extremely complex, and that complexity is even greater with the neurological differences in children with Spina Bifida,” says Dr. Vedant Kulkarni, Medical Director of the Motion Analysis Center in Northern California and Assistant Chief of Orthopedic Surgery. “A three-dimensional motion analysis study allows us a level of precision in our treatment recommendations that these children need to allow them to function at their highest potential.”

How It Works

MAC engineers utilize technology to monitor the movements of patients who are under the care of Shriners Children’s physicians. 

In the MAC lab, engineers attach reflective markers to specific body parts, enabling the collection of data to analyze how a patient walks, runs, or jumps. This data illustrates the patient’s range of motion and performance, revealing the loads experienced at different joints involved in movement.

This information directly influences treatments, ranging from surgery to physical therapy, personalized for each patient.

“The children who participate in these studies often have a great time,” explains Dr. Kulkarni. “For them, it’s like being inside a video game. The information these studies provide is absolutely invaluable.”

Benefits for Care and Patient Outcomes

By gaining a deeper understanding of how Spina Bifida impacts a patient’s gait, posture, and overall mobility, physicians can identify asymmetries, compensatory movements, and areas of weakness or limitation.

After analyzing the data collected from motion analysis, the Shriners Children’s Spina Bifida care team can prescribe targeted physical therapy exercises, orthotic devices, or surgical interventions to address specific gait abnormalities or musculoskeletal issues associated with Spina Bifida. 

Additionally, motion analysis enables physicians to objectively monitor the effectiveness of the interventions over time, allowing for adjustments to treatment plans as needed to optimize outcomes. By analyzing how orthopedic devices influence gait mechanics and weight distribution, our POPS team can optimize their design and customize them to better support the unique needs of each patient, ultimately enhancing their mobility and independence.

On top of providing valuable statistics to treat current issues, motion analysis can provide early detection of potential musculoskeletal complications, such as contractures, joint deformities, or muscle imbalances. By closely monitoring movement patterns and joint mechanics through motion analysis, our team can intervene quickly to prevent the progression of these complications and mitigate their impact on the mobility and function of the patient. 

The expertise, experience, and environment of care create a synergy that distinguishes our specialty pediatric care at Shriners Children’s. Our patients live amazing lives and are able to reach for their dreams as a result. Find more information about the Shriners Children’s Spina Bifida program here.

This blog was sponsored by Shriners Children’s.