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"Brace technology" thematic series - the Gensingen brace™ in the treatment of scoliosis
© Weiss; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
Received: 1 September 2010
Accepted: 13 October 2010
Published: 13 October 2010
Bracing concepts in use today for the treatment of scoliosis include symmetric and asymmetric hard braces usually made of polyethylene (PE) and soft braces. A new asymmetric Chêneau style CAD/CAM derivate has been designed to overcome problems the author experienced with other Chêneau CAD/CAM systems over the recent years.
This CAD/CAM Chêneau derivate has been called Gensingen brace™, a brace available to address all possible curve patterns. Once the patients' trunk is scanned with the help of a whole trunk optical 3D-scan and the patients' data from the clinical measurements are recorded, a model of the brace can be created by (1) modifying the trunk model of the patient 'on screen' to achieve a very individual brace model using the CAD/CAM tools provided or by (2) choosing a brace model from our library and re-size it to the patients' properties 'on screen'.
End-result studies have been published on the Chêneau brace as early as 1985. Cohort studies on the Chêneau brace are available as is a prospective controlled study respecting the SRS criteria for bracing studies, demonstrating beneficial outcomes, when compared to the controls using a soft brace. Sufficient in-brace correction effects have been demonstrated to be achievable when the Chêneau principles of correction are used appropriately. As there is a positive correlation between in-brace correction and the final outcome, the Chêneau concept of bracing with sufficient in-brace corrections as published can be regarded as being efficient when applied well. Case reports with high in-brace corrections, as shown within this paper using the Gensingen brace™ promise beneficial outcomes when a good compliance can be achieved.
The use of the Gensingen brace™ leads to sufficient in-brace corrections, when compared to the correction effects achieved with other braces, as described in literature.
According to the patients' reports, the Gensingen brace™ is comfortable to wear, when adjusted properly.
Further studies are necessary (1) in order to evaluate brace comfort and (2) effectiveness using the SRS inclusion criteria.
Bracing concepts in use today for the treatment of scoliosis include symmetric and asymmetric hard braces usually made of PE on the one hand and soft braces on the other. The latest developments in the field of bracing, aim at (1) improving specificity with respect to the individual curve pattern of the patient treated and (2) at a restoration of a proper sagittal realignment [1, 2].
Although the effect of brace treatment has been questioned , there is evidence that brace treatment can stop curvature progression [4–9], reduce the frequency of surgery [10–12] and improve cosmetic appearance [13–15]. Poor cosmetic appearance for the patient may be the most important problem, which can be solved or at least reduced by the use of advanced bracing techniques including the best possible correction principles available to date .
History of the Gensingen brace™
At the beginning of the new century Dr. Chêneau was working on the first CAD/CAM system supported by a company called IPOS.
Other CAD/CAM systems developed in Germany applying the Chêneau principles, such as the Regnier™ system and the RSC™-brace.
In the summer of 2006 the fabrication of the ScoliOlogiC® off the shelf bracing system for the adjustment of Chêneau light™ braces began.
The Chêneau light™ brace is available for right thoracic and left lumbar curvatures, only. For thoracolumbar curvatures no Chêneau light™ shells are available. Another limitation for the application of the Chêneau light™ brace is the limited number of shell sizes not allowing to brace patients with small trunks as well as in children aged ten or under.
Therefore, in our department it has been necessary to use plaster based bracing or a CAD/CAM system in addition to the Chêneau light™ brace.
At first, we considered using a CAD/CAM system that was already available. However, the Regnier™ system still today does not address the sagittal profile accordingly and the RSC™ braces still have a high percentage of rotation instability . The latter may lead to a loss of the correction initially achieved after a few weeks of brace wearing .
Although, dependent on the pelvic geometry of the individual patient, we are still experiencing some rotation instabilities in the new design, we have been able to reduce this problem drastically.
Many 3-point pressure systems are applied on the frontal, coronal and sagittal plane as in all other Chêneau derivates. Opposite every pressure area an expansion void is implemented. This enables the desired corrective movement and - when adjusted properly - avoids compression effects leading to pressure sores. As a matter of fact, in today's Chêneau braces pressure sores have become a very rare complication.
Pattern specific bracing is desirable to allow the correction of the individual curve patterns appropriately, as theoretically there might be an unlimited number of curve patterns with different geometrical entities. Therefore, a classification is necessary to come as close as possible to the individual pattern of the patient in order to address the biomechanical properties of the individual curve pattern of the patient treated.
After the first curve patterns were identified by Ponseti and Friedmann , and Moe and Kettleson  for surgical means, in the late 70's a simple functional classification for approaching different curve patterns with the help of physiotherapy was established by Lehnert-Schroth [22, 23]. This classification simply distinguished between so called (functional) 3- and 4-curve patterns.
Chêneau also used this simple classification for the construction of his braces.
The King classification  distinguished between 5 different (thoracic) curve patterns and was established in the 80's to help the surgeons to approach the curves properly during operations.
The Lenke classification , which is rather complex was developed by surgeons, because the use of the King Classification had lead to imbalanced post surgical results and seemed to lack reliability.
Rigo  implemented a new classification for brace treatment with 15 different curve patterns, derived from the Lenke classification . All those curve patterns - according to his opinion - demand individual principles of correction in 3D, however, 5 key patterns have been identified which we have started working with in everyday practice .
This year Rigo came up with a brand new classification , which, in our opinion is not simple enough to be used by technicians and CPOs generally.
The advantage of the Gensingen brace™ is that the brace is available in a short time (3 days with overnight milling service, or even shorter), is easily adjustable and is very comfortable to wear, because many compression effects - in frontal and sagittal plane as well - apparent within other specific, non symmetric CAD/CAM systems - have been ruled out in this system of bracing. As a matter of fact many other CAD/CAM Chêneau derivates lack a balanced distribution of pressure areas.
The brace is usually adjusted to the patients' body with the help of the pattern specific blueprints (Additional file 1.) as a raw "try on" brace first as it has been cut from the foam positive (Fig 7, Fig 8, Fig 9). The construction of the Gensingen brace™ from the milling of the foam positive to the fine adjustment to the patient's body can be seen on the first part of the video on the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P9eKW0Fpis.
How to prescribe the brace
The Gensingen brace™ at our centre is not prescribed per se. The prescription does not contain the specific brace name, but a Chêneau brace is prescribed and the curve pattern of the individual patient is also submitted. The Cobb angles of all curvatures should also be visible on the prescription.
Additionally, a construction plan (e.g. in Additional file 2.) for the brace prescribed is attached to the prescription and should a brace have to be renewed, a further sheet giving justification (Additional file 3.) as to why a new brace has to be prescribed should be included.
How to build the brace
Once the patients' trunk is scanned with the help of a whole trunk optical 3D-scan and the patients' data from the clinical measurements are recorded, a model of the brace can be created by (1) modifying the trunk model of the patient 'on screen' to achieve a very individual brace model using the CAD/CAM tools provided or by (2) choosing a brace model from our library and re-size it to the patients' properties 'on screen'. In rare curve patterns the individual correction of the trunk scan is used, in curve patterns classified easily, the second procedure is usually chosen. In this case the patient has the advantage to receive a fully developed brace, where all known disadvantages of other bracing systems have already been ruled out as far as possible . Individual modelling is not as safe with respect to in-brace correction and may be more uncomfortable at first. A visual impression on how the model is milled, vacuumed and how the brace is finally adjusted can be found on the linked video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P9eKW0Fpis.
How to check the brace
The brace is checked in a standardized way. First of all a verification of the pattern specificity is necessary, after that the pad (pressure area) attachment is checked clinically for the right height in relation to the neighboring pressure areas and voids. The voids are then controlled for the impact the construction clinically might have on the patient with respect to pain and other discomfort. This is done by the CPO first and is documented on the "Checklist" (Additional file 4.)
After that, the CPO presents the patient and the checklist to the physician, who has another checklist (available in German only, Additional file 5.) for the final clinical check-up.
The criteria for bracing are taken one to one from the SOSORT indication guidelines .
the number of hours per day that the patient should wear the brace in principle is taken one to one from the SOSORT indication guidelines .
There are no exercises done in the brace because we aim at maximum possible correction giving no room for further corrections with the help of exercises. However, for the exercises without the brace on, the augmented Lehnert-Schroth classification is also applied (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHsCsL7IEaU).
Results & case reports
At least in Germany the Chêneau brace has been widely reviewed. As early as 1985 the first end-result study was published . The average in-brace correction reported on within this study was 40%. Landauer  presented a case series of patients treated with the Chêneau brace with comparable in-brace corrections and comparable end-results.
A prospective controlled study comparing the Chêneau brace with the SpineCor has clearly shown the superiority of the Chêneau brace in a sample of patients at actual risk for being progressive, fulfilling the SRS criteria for studies on bracing . After growth only 8% from the SpineCor sample and 80% of the Chêneau group were not progressive. The Cobb angle at the start of treatment however, was 21° for the SpineCor sample and 33° for the Chêneau brace sample of patients.
According to Landauer and collaborators,  two factors are influencing the outcome of brace treatment, both of them being equally important: In-brace correction (1) clearly correlates with the final result. The better the in-brace correction, the better the end-result. Compliance (2) is the other important factor. The best possible in-brace correction will not change the prognosis of the patient when the brace is not worn as prescribed.
In-brace corrections exceeding 50% have been reported in literature in a sample of patients treated with the Chêneau light™ brace having an average Cobb angle of 36° . The Gensingen brace™ is adjusted according to the same principles of correction as the Chêneau light™ brace , therefore we expect similar results in both brace types.
As the majority of patients treated in our department choose the Chêneau light™ brace, the Gensingen brace™ is used in curvature patterns a Chêneau light™ brace is not available for, or for curvatures exceeding 50°. Therefore, a direct comparison of the results achieved with both brace types will not be possible in the near future.
According to the patients' reports the Gensingen brace™ is comfortable to wear, when adjusted properly.
Several bracing concepts are used today for the treatment of scoliosis and the in-brace corrections accepted as sufficient vary widely. The plaster cast method worldwide seems to be the most practiced technique at the moment. CAD systems are available which allow brace adjustments without plaster. The latest development however, the ScoliOlogiC® off the shelf system is not available for all patterns of curvature and for all possible trunk sizes.
In the normal range of brace indications a correction effect of at least 20% seems necessary to prevent progression , while a correction effect of an average 30% promises some final corrections . A correction effect of 40% and more in a growing adolescent may lead to a final correction of an average 7° Cobb .
Wong et al.  reported correction effects of an average of 40% in patients with an average Cobb degree of 30, 6° (21° - 43°). However, in this collective, no patients with double curve patterns were included, which generally corrected worse than single curves in our preliminary study using the Chêneau light™ brace .
Bullmann et al.  reported average correction effects of 43% in the custom Chêneau brace constructed via plaster cast in patients with a Cobb angle of 31° (25° - 40°). The final rate of success in this study however, was only 58%, which has to be regarded as rather disappointing, when compared to the success rate of 80% we reported on in another prospective study  with an average correction effect of less than 40% in custom Chêneau braces constructed via plaster cast (prospective controlled study) and compared to the success rate of about 80% as reported in another independent prospective study .
No end result studies on the Gensingen brace™ are available at this stage, as this is a new application, but as it uses the Chêneau principles of correction comparable outcomes can be assumed as in the Chêneau braces investigated previously [6, 7, 9–11].
The use of the Gensingen brace™ leads to sufficient in-brace corrections, when compared to the correction effects achieved with other braces as described in literature. This has been demonstrated in the cases shown within this paper.
According to the patients' reports the Gensingen brace™ is comfortable to wear, when adjusted properly.
Further studies are necessary (1) to evaluate brace comfort and (2) effectiveness using the SRS inclusion criteria.
The author is grateful to Orthomed Scoliocare, Orthopedic Technical Services, Gensingen, Germany, for their kind support, especially to Mario Werkmann for providing some of the pictures shown.
The author wishes to thank Lesley Schneider for copyediting this paper.
Written informed consent was obtained from the next of kin for all persons' visible on the pictures submitted.
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