The human spine is composed of vertically stacked vertebrae that form a protective canal for the spinal cord. Instability of the spine caused by vertebral fractures, deformities and other spinal disorders often requires surgical intervention, in which two metal screws are placed into parts of the vertebrae called pedicles and joined at adjacent vertebral levels with metal rods. However, patients with osteoporosis (and thus poor bone quality) are susceptible to screw pullout during the procedure. At the same time, osteoporotic patients stand to gain the most from the procedure.
Rather than reinvent the effective and well-established procedure of pedicle screw fixation, this E-Team is aiming to rebuild the strength of screw fixation in the pedicles by shifting the forces experienced by weak inner bone to strong outer bone. They call this method Corticoplasty™, and the device used in this approach will act as an intermediary between the bone-screw interface and provide a strong interference fit for existing screws in osteoporotic patients.
Osteoporosis, while widespread, is highly preventable with the right diet, regular exercise and bone density measurements. Regularly scheduled bone density measurements can detect the disease early on, reducing the number of debilitating fractures and mortality. The gold standard for bone density measurement is dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), but only 10% of the at-risk population undergoes routine DXA examinations due to the expense of the machine and the fact that it requires dedicated space and personnel.
This E-Team opened up osteoporosis screening to a wider population by developing a tool that can be used in a dental care setting. Using dual-energy measurement, the device gives conventional dental x-ray equipment the ability to measure bone density in the mandible (jaw) and phalanges (fingers and toes).