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The Texas Back Institute (TBI), a private multi-disciplinary spine care center headquartered in Plano, Texas, is dedicated to improving the lives of patients through research, knowledge and wide-ranging treatment approaches. For more than 40 years, the institute has integrated the best of science and education into innovative care for all types of spine conditions. Focusing on the head, neck and lumbar regions, TBI’s team of physicians can address everything from chronic lower back pain to scoliosis in adults and children. But to do so, they need as much information as possible.
Data lies at the heart of good treatment decisions, whether they are surgical or non-surgical in nature. This led TBI to build an advanced motion capture lab, supported by a generous grant supported by a generous grant from the Viscogliosi family.
The genesis of the lab began two and a half years ago at the hands of Dr. Ram Haddas, TBI’s Director of Research, and a PhD and medical engineer. Dr. Haddas saw the potential to create a research environment that not only met TBI’s demanding specifications, but would also incorporate the best technology the industry had to offer.
Even today with all the recent advancements in medical technology, there is limited research on human motion and the spine – and what does exist focuses primarily on gait. With its new lab, TBI would be able to produce research that had a big impact on the analysis and treatment of commonly performed spine surgeries done at TBI and beyond.
A dream setup
With the support of his TBI colleagues, Dr. Haddas was able to design and equip his dream lab. As a research assistant in college, Dr. Haddas became familiar with motion capture thanks to a Vicon system he encountered. The idea and its potential for the medical field stuck with him, and when the opportunity to create the lab arose he explored several solutions, ultimately deciding that Vicon outshone the competition.
The TBI system consists of ten 16-megapixel Vantage cameras set up throughout a 900-square foot lab. The setup features five cameras in the back and five in the front, alongside two Bonita video cameras, one in profile so doctors can see a patient’s gait from the side, and the other positioned in front – this particular camera is critical to assessing the pain scale. The camera records fine facial movements like an eyebrow or lip twitch, which occurs when a patient experiences pain. The camera is used as a sort of psychological test, helping to identify the correlation between pain and motion.
Pain, what patients feel and how it’s measured, is a critical part of the assessment and treatment process. It is regularly measured by a highly subjective rating system where patients rate discomfort on a one-to-ten scale, however, everyone has a different perception of pain depending on a whole host of factors. Vicon and integrated EMG data can help quantify pain and establish more objective criteria. Physicians can compare, for example, what a patient says with how fast they’re walking or their range of motion. There is a proven relationship between physical and mental states, and through Vicon data and analysis, medical teams are able to scientifically correlate the two together.
The sophisticated features of the Vantage system, including the onboard sensors within the cameras that detect excessive heat or movement, have also made the entire process simpler and more efficient. This comes in handy when someone bumps a camera, which can happen frequently in a lab environment. If this happened in the past, capture would need to stop and the whole system would need to be manually recalibrated. Now, recalibration is quick and done with a single click.